Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Dreaded Day Has Arrived

Maybe not for you, but for me the day of reckoning has arrived. After successfully eluding the dreaded condition for the better part of a working adult life, today I file for unemployment. 'Tis a terrible door through which I walk, but hey, I'm not the only one. And I must approach this condition with an appreciation that it could be much worse. At least I'm not being terrorized from my home by militant rebels. Nor am I suffering through chemotherapy, sitting on a crashing plane, living on the west bank, or entering a gas chamber.

Being put out to pasture may not be so bad; it's just that I had hoped it would happen at age sixty-five, not fifty-eight. After twenty-five years as a carpenter, then a career change to become a teacher, and two years of part-timing while attending education classes. followed by two more years of jumping through hoops while hovering on the edges of American education, it appears that my bid for educator status was ill-timed. Apparently I didn't make the cut. The Great Meltdown of '08 has overtaken my good intentions and well-laid plans. Or was it my own failings and eccentricities as a human being?

Anyway, at least our three kids are raised and educated, and my wife is working productively as a nurse (although she complains about the drug-seekers and the alcoholics who are milking the system), and I have a roof over my head.

Maybe I'll be a farmer before I die, and grow my own food so I won't have to pay for it, but I don't think my 58-year-old back can take all that hoeing and weeding. I suppose my grandfather did it long ago but that was a different time and place. Am I making excuses here? Crying in my milk? Evading reality? Maybe. Let me know what you think.

Our 1.5 acres is mostly wooded, so there's not enough sun to sustain a garden. I tried growing shiitake mushrooms once a few years ago, but as it turned out I didn't have the thumb for that enterprise. But hey, I'm happy to be an American in 2009, and not a Chinese teacher wannabe in the 1960s, being herded out to the countryside by Mao's cadre of young bucks to spend long hours toiling in a rice paddy to achieve cultural revolution.

Although we are now enduring a cultural revolution of some sort. The times they are a-changin'. And I am grateful that I'm not mired in Albert Camus' existential dilemma, concluding that the most important decision in life is whether to commit suicide or not, as someone pointed out on Diane's NPR show yesterday.

No, it's not that bad. I suppose I'll just wake up with the sun tomorrow and walk through that awful door of unemployment one step at a time, like however many thousands of dazed Americanos have done, are doing, and will do. I'll play my part in the Great Recession. The current debate about health care and the public option becomes a moot point for me. I'll take what I can get. I had hoped to teach the next generation how to deal with what life throws at us. But I still have a few lesson of my own to learn.

Thank God I married a nurse, and she's a good one too. Perhaps, as I walk through that dismal government-agency door this morning, I'll be whistling that old Dean Martin tune, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. And I'll be singing the best line: "If I had it in my power, I would arrange for every girl to have your charms (and employment skills). Then, every minute, every hour, every boy would find what I found in your arms..." Thank God I married a faithful one, and she loves me too.

Maybe if Camus had been faithful to his wife he wouldn't have had to grapple so fiercely with the suicide question. Oh, but of course I'm oversimplifying the problem, as most Christians are known to do.

Would you like fries with this entry?

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

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