Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Big Blue

In 1988/1989 (I was very little so I don't quite recall), my father was working for Grumman Aerospace on Long Island. He started to see the writing on the wall (the end of the great defense contracts) and since he had two small children he began looking for a new job. In June 1989 he gained a job at IBM in upstate New York (or what passes for upstate for Islanders/City folk). We moved from his hometown to the town where my parents live now. After many years that were quite difficult at times, my parents bought a house, and saw their two eldest graduate from high school, college, and post-graduate degrees. My little sister is now in the same high school, taking the same accelerated courses I trudged through nearly ten years ago. Things weren't perfect, but stable with the addition of a second job my father has been working for nearly 15 years.

This afternoon at work the campus gathered for the annual Christmas luncheon, postponed till the new year due to the unusual wintry weather the descended upon the Pacific Northwest. The President spoke, sharing with us all how great the university is doing in terms of enrollment and funding, that we could take comfort in these tough times in knowing that we are cared for and that the university is well positioned for whatever is thrown at us in the coming year.

The red light was lit on my phone when I got back to my desk following lunch. It was my sister. She had that quality to her voice, that slight tremble that instantly set my heart racing.

After nearly 19 years, my father's job at IBM has been outsourced. Once he has trained his replacement, he has the option of trying to find another job in the company (competing with the 5000 others who have been let go as well) or he's out. He just started nursing school in an attempt to get out of the sinking ship with something (I can remember layoff threats back in elementary school).

My sister, the nurse, is planning on helping out the parents and taking on overtime. I'm a wage slave with all my free time focused on grad school. The husband and I are getting by, but we haven't much to share. I feel useless and helpless, as the family of 4999 IBMers already do.

Keep my family in your thoughts.

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