Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just Trying to Get Through

It's not fair, to mention the meetings, then fall silent. But last night was a terrible night, because those meetings were terrible meetings, and because these are such terrible times. And so I kept quiet here, because there was so much to say to my husband and to my children--or at the least to Em, who hears and understands and feels everything so deeply.

Then, today, things were less terrible. But not good. It feels like they'll never be good again. More importantly, they're not settled. And so it didn't feel like it was time yet to say anything. Until now, when the house has fallen silent and it suddenly seems wrong not to. Despite my not having anything really to say.

In short: Yesterday, the president of the university where I work spoke to all the staff members, having spoken to faculty separately. He did a great job, but the bottom line was, in order to protect the university long-term, cuts have to made, and they have to be deep. And they have to hit hardest in the areas that don't directly impact the main functions of this university: academics and research. Layoffs, he said, are a definite. He promised they'd do them as quickly as possible, that we'd all know by the end of the month.

A couple of hours later, we had our 'division' meeting. Now, I should say that my boss's boss is a absolutely LOVELY man, just turned 70, snowy white hair (that which is left), apple cheeks, Boston Irish, great guy. He stood up there and his voice cracked throughout and there were tears in his eyes. It was a seriously sad moment, seriously painful, gut-wrenchingly painful. Just one look at him, and you knew it wasn't going to be good. And it wasn't. The bottom line: Our division is getting hit hard, and there is literally no way to do the cuts required of us without getting rid of people. A lot of people. Whole swathes of people. By the time we left the meeting, silent, mournful, unsure what to say to one another, who to walk with, who to look at, I'd have put my chances of surviving this cut at about 10 percent.

Today, I'd put it higher. I'd say it's 50-50 now. There were things said--and things not said--today that implied that, despite my being new and despite my being relatively expensive, there are people who recognize the value of what I do, and that if I can be saved, I will be saved. But it's not at all certain that I can be saved. And they were only implications, not statements, and certainly not promises. Which is better than yesterday, but still sort of sucks.

Here's what doesn't suck: My daughter. Oh, you guys, she is just so awesome. She'd overheard Baroy and me talking some of this through last night, deep-and-serious-voice discussions. We were discussing all the various contingency plans, and when we'd do this, and when we'd do that. She didn't hear details, but she knew what was going on. Finally, she came in and sat down with us, and asked a couple of questions, and started to cry. And then she turned to me and said, "If you get laid off, I'd like to try to help out. I could maybe babysit to make some money, or maybe I could help K at her vet's office..." My heart swelled and broke at the same time.

I told her that, for all the ways in which Baroy and I haven't exactly lived up to the financial goals we've set for ourselves, we have made sure that something like this does not bring us to our knees immediately, that we will have time to figure it all out, though during that time we'll have to keep things really, really tight, and there would be sacrifices, of course. And she started to cry, and I thought, "Ah, here it goes. Here's the self-centered child thing, worrying about whether she'll get a new Wii game any time soon. But, hey, she's done really well up until now."

But no. When I asked her what was upsetting her, she said, "Will we have to give Snug away?"

I was confused. "Do you mean if we have to sell the house? No, of course not. He's part of our family. We'll just find a place to live where we can have a dog."

But she shook her head. "No. I mean, it's expensive to feed a dog, and if we have to make sacrifices..."

This time, my heart only broke, into about a million pieces.

"Oh, honey, no. No. We will be able to feed our dog. Don't you worry."

And as she sobbed (with N, unable to process all of this but upset with the lack of drama surrounding HIM, suddenly climbing onto my lap and fake-sobbing right along with her...sigh...), Baroy and I held her, and told her we loved her, and told her that the only important thing was our family, and that we'd always have our family, and that everything would be fine, that maybe it would be hard, but it would be fine. I think she heard us, and I think she believed us.

Now if only we believed us, too.


po said...

Oh poor Emmy, poor all of you! :( I really really hope that things work out and you are spared (though I know the survivor guilt will be awful).

You may not be up to talking about this, but how did the IEP meeting go? Hugs!!

Elizabeth said...

thanks for the update... hope that the toast winds up landing butter side up... thinking of you...

Green said...

The first time my dad got laid off, it was the summer before I started 10th grade, I think.

Allowances immediately stopped. Ice cream on Fridays stopped, as did bagels on Saturday mornings. We'd always used coupons and bought things on sale so that didn't change.

Maybe if Em wants to earn some money she should set up How To Be a Good Tween seminars for the neighborhood kids. I bet other parents would pay a fortune for those.

Crossing my fingers you can keep your job.

shandon said...

My MIL is employed by the same university as you and was really rattled by yesterday's announcement; she is head of her department and will have to be the person to decide where the cuts will be made, and she's dreading it.

I, too, am keeping my fingers crossed for you. I wish you and your family well.