Why I Worry About My Parents Too.
Young people aren’t the only ones suffering in this economic climate.
I have a very vivid memory of visiting my Father at work one day as a young girl.
My Mother went to get her hair cut at an upscale salon in the city. My Father’s boss was generous enough to let her drop us off for a few hours while she was pampered.
I remember sitting at the huge conference table in the room besides my dad’s office.
He handed us a stack of paper and a handle of highlighters before getting back to work. He could see us with the door open.
We spent the afternoon coloring and drawing with office supplies. When my Mother came back to collect us, looking perfectly coiffed and gorgeous, I took her hand and told her that I wanted to come see daddy at work more often.
“I had so much fun,” I said. “Daddy loves his job!”
I don’t know if my dad really loved his job at PNC, but he was very happy there for a long time. And he was very well compensated. He liked his coworkers. His bosses were fair to their employees. Those were very happy years for us.
When the recession hit in 2008, my dad lost his well paying job. He’s worked a few jobs since, doing similar things for similar companies, but his salary is nowhere near what it once was. His working conditions are not as favorable.
He’s told me he feels like a failure. He always imagined he would be much farther ahead than he is now.
I empathize with him. I thought I would be a lot farther ahead than I am too.
I imagine it is infinitely harder for a man in his sixities.
A man who has a family to provide for. A man who thought that he would never have to dip into his 401k. A man who thought he could retire comfortably. A man who never imagined he would have to provide for his adult children.
My Father has watched all his dreams and aspirations for the future crumble away into nothing.
It shows on his face.
It shows in the deep lines carving canyons across his cheeks. It shows in the thinning, grey hair. It shows in the hollow, tired look in his eyes.
My dad has looked this way for a long time now.
I can’t remember the handsome, happy man from my childhood. I see him in pictures and can’t reconcile that imagine with the man sitting across the room from me.
My Mother was not hit as hard.
She grew up poorer. She never went to college. She wanted to be a teacher, but her family told her they couldn’t afford it.
My Mother knows disappointment. She knows failure. She has grown comfortable with it. She has settled for her lot in life.
She has children and a husband who make her happy. She never lost her job. She never had the weight of being the breadwinner on her shoulder.
When we were younger, my Mother’s salary was “fun” money. It was the money my parents used for vacation and buying clothes and going out to dinner. It wasn’t necessary that she worked, but the extra money was nice.
My mother’s money pays the bills now.
I’ve seen the credit card debt printed across the bills my Mother diligently writes her checks out to. Seeing that figure printed in bold ink sends shivers down my spine.
My parents never thought they would be where they are. I never thought so either.
And I worry about them. Just as much as they worry about me.
I worry that they will never be able to retire. I worry that they will be squeezed and squeezed until there is not a drop left in their savings or retirement funds. I worry that they will be forced to support us until they drop dead from exhaustion.
I worry how I will pay my bills when they’re not around anymore.
I wish my parents could have lived happier, prosperous lives. I wish my dad had never lost his job. I wish he never had to suffer the abuses he has at the hands of his new employers. I wish he could retire early and enjoy the remaining years with my mother.
I hope that I can be able to afford to support myself AND them one day. Because if I don’t, no one will.
It’s time to admit that we’re not just failing our younger generations, but that we’ve failed older generations as well.
They are drowning just as much as we are. They are supporting aging parents and aging children and finding that there is nothing left for them. They experience ageism in the work place. They are forced out of fulfilling and lucrative careers. They are valued little in our world.
I worry what will happen to them as they get older.
I worry that they can’t afford to care for themselves and that I can’t either.
I bet my Father never thought that he would have to worry about that either.