Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unexpected Visitors

Powell and Idiot Cousin in a Jeep

I have written lately about the effect of the recession upon my personal life and in my home in general. That effect is about to become much more pronounced.

There are two developments, both very recent, that promise to significantly alter our lives if (in the case of the first) and once (in the case of the second) they take force.

My mother, who has been employed since 1999 by Major Pharmaceutical Company, learned this week that as a result of that corporation's continued efforts to cut costs, her job may be eliminated in September.

She's already taken a pay cut from $100,000.00 to $80,000.00 a year, but even at that reduced income brings home the vast majority of our family's annual revenue. My father had held that distinction, with his own salary topping $150,000.00 at its peak.

Once Solar Explosion Company fell apart, though, his contribution to the family coffers dropped to zero, with the result that between 2006 and 2007, our total income fell from $250,000.00 to under $100,000.00.

Should my mother be terminated, our situation would go from difficult to dire. We would almost certainly have to leave our home in favor of something smaller and less expensive, a move that, if it happens, will be our sixth relocation in seven years.

In 2001, my mother was promoted within Major Pharmaceutical Company, an improvement in position that allowed us at last to leave Dirty Town, where we'd lived since 1993. We departed Dirty Town before our house in Beautiful Town was done being built, though, so for the intervening three months we lived with My Mother's Old Best Friend and her family. In December we finally took up residence in Beautiful Town.

In May of 2004 my mother was promoted again, which took us from Beautiful Town and Native State to Deep South State. The three hurricanes that struck our luxurious home there, coupled with the deaths of three separate family members, sent us in March of 2005 to Wealthy Town in Southern State, where, for the first time since the early '90's, we rented a house.

In December of '05, we purchased our own home in more affordable Mountain Town. Now, economic troubles have surfaced, and we could be obliged to leave and resettle once again.

Before you start rushing to give me your condolences, I should tell you that I think it highly unlikely my mother will actually be let go; she is excellent at what she does, has consistently exceeded sales goals, is a physician favorite, and at the beginning of her career with Major Pharmaceutical Company was declared Rookie of the Year.

Just before we left Deep South State, Major Pharmaceutical Company was acquired by Major Foreign Pharmaceutical Company, and she faced the same prospect. We pulled through then, and I think we will now.

That being said, the economic atmosphere in mid-2008 is far different than it was in late 2004 and early 2005, so we must, as I told her, be prepared for the worst.

If she is downsized, she will look for another job in the field, which she will probably find. It's all very frightening, though.

Another event, one whose chances of happening are far greater, could also soon be upon us.

My Aunt Ostentatious and her family, including Uncle Fake, Idiot Cousin, and Bratty Cousin, moved from Native State (where they had resided in Dirty Town for well over a decade) to Humid State in 2006. They bought a beautiful home, added every special feature they could, and prepared to live the good life. Unfortunately, they also left Native State without first finding new employers.

So, when Idiot Cousin and Aunt Ostentatious fell down the stairs in separate incidents and severely injured one ankle each, the family was without health insurance. The necessary surgeries that followed quickly put them in $80,000.00 of medical debt.

They soon figured out what my own family had learned the hard way two years earlier, that moving to the Deep South without a job already secured is very unwise. Before long they couldn't pay their bills, which prompted my Uncle Fake to return to Native State seeking work so he could send money down south.

This has left my aunt alone with her two daughters and no friends in a strange region of the country. Aunt Ostentatious has grown despondent in this environment, and so welcomed with relish a visit that my parents made to Humid State several weeks ago.

A thank-you card came from her in the mail a few days back. It read:

"Marie and David: Thank you both for all you did while you were here. It was great to see all of you. I wish it could have been longer. Seems like it went by so fast. Marie, thanks for all the cleaning-up and cooking, also thanks for the lunch money; you didn't have to do that. Well, I miss you all so very much already. Hope to see you soon! Love Always, Ostentatious."

When I finished reading this aloud to Powell, his strong football player's face softened into an expression that made him look like a giant teddy bear.

"Oh, now we have to let them stay," he said, his heart just as melted as mine had been.

"I know," I concurred.

Aunt Ostentatious's Letter

That's right: Aunt Ostentatious is coming to live with us. Idiot Cousin, who is fond of drinking, smoking, and heading up to Native State to party (she is only seventeen) will not be coming, and neither will my Uncle Fake. Ostentatious and her youngest daughter Bratty will move in fairly soon, taking, of all places, my bedroom.

I'm moving two floors up to Thomas's quarters, and he'll have to bunk with Pie until all of this rolls over.

It isn't that I'm not aggravated about having to leave my spacious basement apartments, of which I'm rather fond. It's just that, however much Aunt Ostentatious's family has riled me in the past, they are family, and we must help them in their time of need as I hope that would have helped us.

Had Idiot Cousin been included in this deal, I would have bitten down and beared her presence here, but she almost assuredly will not be coming; my mother had imposed conditions on her dwelling her, those being that she stop drinking and smoking and that she enroll full-time in the local high school.

The odds of her abiding by those rules are about as likely as an asteroid striking me as I write this, so she probably will not be accompanying her mother and sister. Uncle Fake continues to work in Native State.

I will say this, though: we have been far more gracious as the dominant family in the 2000's than they ever were in the 1990's. For the greater part of that decade, before our meteoric rise and their dramatic fall, they constituted by far the greatest income earners in the extended family.

I will have to explain later a theory of mine, entitled Family System Economics, that analyzes the balance of power between individual families in an extended unit in much the same way that international studies analyzes the balance of power between nations.

In any case, we always knew during their time at the top that they occupied the upper rung and that we were far and away on the bottom. They never let us forget. My mother's relatives all thought that she, at nineteen, was insane for marrying a twenty-nine-year-old man with two small children at home.

They predicted that, if our parents' fragile union did not immediately dissolve, we would surely fall flat on our faces. That failing, any economic achievements would be the result of my mother's labors.

Mom and Dad have since outlasted the many broken marriages of every couple who preached their imminent demise, have had two additional children, and have both attained six-figure incomes.

I am sometimes rather proud of them.

Those rivalries and whatnot are long in the past, if for no other reason than the fact that we have pulled so ridiculously far ahead as to have an insurmountable lead on the others.

That lead has not been whittled at all by the economic fiasco now unfolding, seeing as it's hit everyone proportionally. We're now middle income, and everyone else has nothing. That's about the size of it.

I'm actually looking forward to having Aunt Ostentatious here, in a way. She was never the worst of my father's decriers, nor was she as bad to Powell and me as some of the other members of my mother's family.

Idiot Cousin grew up a street down from us and was like a sister to Powell, Thomas, and I before Pie was born. That has ended now. Time took us apart.

I'll let you know as things progress.

Thank You

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