How the Other Half

The last day of January was warm and the songbirds were teasing us with the promise of spring. I remembered the packets of heirloom seeds that I bought last year, hidden away, waiting to be propagated under the grow lights in our basement. Perhaps, this May, I will finally get to see Mom’s peonies bloom. We have always been at the beach for the blossoming. Peonies don’t enjoy being uprooted and take years to acclimate to new surroundings. I believe they are pink.

The beach seemed impossible this year. We thought it more likely that we would be painting, packing and putting this good old house on the market; cutting our losses and looking for new beginnings. That’s a difficult concept to wrap our heads around at our age, just when we were beginning to think about retiring some day. Bill is terrific at what he does. He is dedicated, responsible, innovative, smart and accurate. And, when others aren’t pulling their weight or there is short staffing, he stays late, and goes in on weekends and holidays to make sure that the work gets finished. He saw the writing on the wall, but he was much too busy to search for another job. Attrition is a heartless way to “reward” such loyalty. After all, why would there be any value in retaining such an employee when there could be two younger and less expensive people carrying the burden? He’s not permitted to say this. I’ve got a big mouth and I didn’t sign anything. I am happy to report that in his absence there has been a long row for the finance department to hoe and that the man who was ultimately charged with firing him is very justifiably without a job. I still think they got the wrong guy. We have friends who love us, so we’ll get to the beach nevertheless.

Our “vacation” has been a succession of what ifs and worry. Bill has spent a great deal of time feeling emasculated and I fear that I have fed into this mind set from time to time. Wringing my hands and feeling sorry for me has not been helpful, I’m sure. But, the powerful knowledge that we could chuck it all and move on to something completely different was sustaining. We are so very fortunate. I look at ageism and unemployment with new eyes now. What happens to people who aren’t in a position to retire? How do they keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs? Why is it that nobody wants to hire people who don’t have jobs? Why is there a stigma placed on good, honest workers who made the mistake of working for total jackasses?

We’ve enjoyed our travels in the interim. They were perfect for pondering and we’re still dreaming the same dreams after more than thirty five years. There’s a great deal to be said for that. They have taken on a tangible quality in the wake of temporary instability. Tennessee in October was exactly what we needed. It strengthened our already solid foundation which is great because we still meet with challenges regularly. I suppose we always will.


I wish we had known then that there would be a happy ending. Bill began his new job on Monday and he went in feeling very much appreciated. I’m still waiting to hear about some of my job applications. I got a lovely, affirming confirmation e-mail from a school in Virginia. One day we will have those chickens, a small, one story house, acreage, a huge vegetable garden and a kitchen made for canning. But, in the mean time, we’ll be thanking our lucky stars for a steady paycheck from a worthy employer, health insurance and each other. Happy spring!

2 thoughts on “How the Other Half

  1. Fran Cohen says:

    Shriek! Gasp! Are you thinking of moving away from this area? Or did I misread? Chickens in VA might be nice, esp. now that Dr Oz says that eggs are fine, a good source of protein and not a cholesterol nightmare. But how would we manage without you in jewelry class? Say it ain’t so!!

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