To Get My Father’s Company, I Must Give Up Everything I Have: Crazy Choice - Story of the Day
A man decided to split his company between his two children, but his favorite daughter made a choice he couldn't understand.
My father was a driven, successful man, a man who had spent most of his youth building a multi-million dollar empire, and married late in life. When he married our mother, his life hardly changed.
He spent very little time with us, but from the time we were in our early teens, he started taking my sister and me to work with him. He'd explain everything about his business, and tell us: "One day, all this will be yours."
Selma and I never even thought about any other career direction. We were going to grow up and work for daddy, and one day, we'd run the company the way he always had.
Selma, being the oldest, finished college first, earned an MBA at Yale, and joined the company at ground level, but by the time I was in my last year in college, she was junior vice-president in charge of sales.
It was that year that I met Josh and fell in love. He was so different from anyone I'd known before. He was a gentle and quiet man, a musician and composer of enormous talent.
I married Josh and announced the wedding to my parents in a phone call. They were furious, especially my father. He wanted me to focus on business and not on personal relationships.
They accepted Josh, they really had no choice, but I know my dad gave him a hard time. I finished my degree, and of course, I joined the company. Unlike my sister, I started out as head of product development, the role I knew she'd always coveted.
I asked him why he'd withheld that position from Selma, and he said, "Because you're the one I'm grooming to take over, Annie. You're the one who's got the instinct, the intuition to sense what the 'next thing' will be. You're this company's future."
I told him I didn't think it was fair to Selma, but he waved me off. He knew what he was doing, he told me. But I guess he really didn't. He got us both wrong, Selma and I.
Three years after I joined the company, things were going really well. Our new projects had increased sales and investment from foreign partners. Our stock had never been higher and daddy was pleased.
As for me, I was enjoying my life more than I'd thought possible. I had Josh and I loved my job. Then one Saturday, I started feeling ill. The next Monday I went to the doctor and was stunned to discover I was pregnant!
I went home immediately and told Josh the news that we were going to have a baby! The next day I was eager to share the news with my father, but he had an announcement of his own.
He called Selma and me into his office and told us that he had decided to retire. "You'll be CEO, Annie," he told me, smiling, "And you will be COO, Selma. I know you will be your sister's right hand!"
I could see the pain in Selma's face and the anger, but daddy was oblivious. "So, Annie," he cried, "are you excited? It's all yours now, just like I promised!"
"Daddy," I said carefully, "I have an announcement to make too. I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby."
He stared at me like I was mad. "Pregnant? How far along are you?"
I smiled happily. "About six weeks, the doctor said, but I'll be going in for a scan next week..."
He looked relieved. "Then you can still end it!" he cried.
I stared at him, stunned. "End it? What do you mean, end it?"
"This is not the time for you to be having a child, Annie!" he said. "You need to concentrate on the transition to CEO. It's the most sensitive time."
I shook my head slowly. "No daddy, I'm not giving up my child for anything, not to be CEO or anything else. Give the position to Selma, and I'll continue in Development. That's what I enjoy anyway."
His face was purple with rage. "NO! I want YOU to run my company, I've been grooming YOU, it was always YOU!"
"No, daddy," I said quietly, "I don't want it. My family comes first, and it always will."
"Well, if you don't want to be CEO, there's no place for you here!" he screamed, "You're fired, and let's see that loser husband of yours support you and your brat!"
The choice between ambition and love defines a person's character.
I walked out that day and tried not to see the triumph on my sister's face. It would be over 12 years before I saw my father again, at my mother's funeral. I was there with my daughter, and I walked towards him, but he turned away.
I was saddened by his coldness. I'd wanted my Frieda to know her grandfather, but he'd cut us out of his life, and my mother had been forbidden to mention us and visited us in secret.
I knew from my mother that Selma was running the company and that he didn't approve of what she'd been doing, or the direction she'd taken, but since he'd yielded his controlling interest to her, he had no say.
Six months after my mother passed away, I received a phone call from my father's housekeeper telling me that my father had had a stroke and was in the hospital.
I rushed over and was told that he was in intensive care and that the doctors feared for his life. I called Josh and told him what had happened and that I was going to stay there in case my father needed me.
For three days I was by his bedside holding his hand when he finally opened his eyes. He looked at me, and tears started trickling down his cheeks, soaking into his pillow. He couldn't speak because of the tube but he squeezed my hand.
I smiled. "It's OK, daddy," I told him. "You're going to be just fine, and I'm not going anywhere."
Selma didn't show up once. I called her and asked her to come visit our father, but she said, "I'm a busy woman, Annie. Besides, you're his favorite, arent you? So you wipe his drool. I have better things to do."
I didn't say anything to my father about Selma, and he never asked. When it was time for him to leave the hospital, I asked my father to come and stay with us while he convalesced rather than stay in his huge empty house and he agreed.
He and Frieda got along like a house on fire, and he started to recover his energy and his spirits under her influence. One afternoon I came home and found him sitting in the garden, watching Frieda paint.
I sat down next to him and took his hand. "Annie..." he said softly, "These have been the happiest six months of my life."
"I'm glad, daddy," I said.
"I need to ask your forgiveness," he said. "When you told me about Frieda..."
I leaned over and put my arms around him. "Please, daddy, that's all behind us now."
He shook his head stubbornly. "No, there's something you said that I've only now understood. Family comes first. Thank you, Annie. I love you, you know?"
We sat there holding hands, watching the sun go down. It had taken my father a lifetime, but he'd finally found a place to call home.
What can we learn from this story?
1. Love and devotion don't always take the form we expect.
2. The choice between ambition and love defines a person's character.
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