Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FAMILY GATHERINGS IN HARD TIMES


For many years after we five kids left home, we gathered in my parent's house for Thanksgiving. In the earliest years we came home from college or lived in easy driving distance and they were the only ones with a house big enough for all of us to gather. Over time, we spread out to other states and cities and the holiday gatherings varied in size and make-up depending on who traveled, had babies or new spouses.


After they retired and settled down (first in Tahoe and now in Palm Springs) my parents planned trips around holidays and family events and went back and forth between the Bay Area and Idaho.


After all these years we kind of have this down. Whoever is hosting does the turkey and we split up all the other dishes and bring wine and champagne. Since we have done this so often, we pretty much know who likes to do what, which foods go over well and that Polly likes to make the dessert. Dad gets concerned over the champagne consumption, but hey! Dinner is always served - eventually.


But this year something went wrong.


Dad is mad and won't come.


I am not certain of all the details; he and my sister got upset and she reacted by saying she was too stressed out. I didn't know she was being put on the spot or I would have stepped in, but the bottom line was she couldn't say what he wanted or needed to hear and he couldn't let it go.


This year is different in other ways, too. Polly is an interior designer and work has dried up. Her husband weathered countless lay-offs at Schwab, but not the last one. He is 48 in an industry that likes youth. They are worried about losing their house. They have 3 girls in elementary school.


We already lost our house, we know how hard that is. We have 2 kids in college. I have not had a job since January and have only gotten 2 calls for interviews since then. I am working with my husband to do what I can to help bring in clients to his practice. Each month we hold our breath that nothing big breaks or goes wrong.


My other sister and her husband are doing fine financially. She has taken on the care of his father who appears to be suffering from dementia. She spends hours every week taking him to appointments, shopping for him, paying his bills, doing his banking and making his meals. He is combative and unkind to her. She also has 2 kids and a job.


The stress is massive.


I am not sure why I am writing about this. I thought I might explore why my dad is so touchy and is it a by product of age. Or maybe to discuss how hard it is to get everyone together these days - we have made life pretty complicated with all our activities and our stuff.


But it looks like I am really saying - life is difficult for a lot of people right now. People have a lot of stresses and problems and maybe give someone a break if they say something you don't like. They might be touchy or anxious. You may not know what they are going through. So take a moment. Take a breath. And be kind.
We can all use some kindness.

7 comments:

smalltownmom said...

Excellent advice.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

I'm sorry your family is having these stresses right now. Helps me keep my own things in perspective. Thank you.

mkosboth said...

Wandered over here from the Women's Colony. I totally relate to your situation. My job is quite secure, but my husband has been laid off since January. He is a software engineer, and has been applying for jobs left and right and gets NOTHING in response. It is crazy. He has branched out into real estate, which is not as crazy as it sounds in the Boston area. He has not completed a sale yet, but is close. The holidays are always a hotbed of turmoil with family, but when there are financial woes involved, it gets even more complicated. We are staying home and probably cooking a meal just for us, possibly a step son or two. And I am okay with that.

susansmusings said...

I'm so sorry you all have so much stress to deal with now.

Holidays seem to bring it's own set of pressures...we are all supposed to be happy and jolly, sometimes that makes everything seem even worse. Hopefully it will ease off soon.

Wenderina said...

Hi - came to you from the WC. Your post just resonated with me. Especially how you ended it. There are so many sub-factions in my family right now, it's hard to keep track who is talking to who. I know my father would be absolutely heartbroken to see us all so fractured. I hope you find a way to have a peaceful holiday with all of your family surrounding you.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Your family has really been affected by this economy.

This is why I got so furious with my "friends" who intimated that the only people without jobs or health insurance are deadbeats. It's hard to believe people can be so obtuse.

I hope you weather the holidays okay.

Minnesota Matron said...

I understand the stresses! I'm now a full time worker because of the economy and life with two full time working parents is much harder than having one managing the home. Money sucks unless you have enough.