Monday, February 25, 2013

A serious visit from Middle Son

Middle Son stopped by the house Saturday after work to do his taxes. I have Turbo Tax installed at home and he'd asked me a couple of weeks ago if he could use it to prepare his tax returns.

But Long Suffering Spouse was certain that there were more than taxes on his mind Saturday. "He's not himself lately," she told me. "Something's bothering him."

Accordingly, our parental antennae were fully extended when Middle Son walked in Saturday afternoon and took over the computer.

His lease is coming up in May, he told us, and he plans to move. Who with, or where, is yet to be determined. One of his roommates has already moved out. This roommate moved out once before, too -- the last time he fell in love. There are still two others in residence with whom the enormous rent can be shared, but all are getting itchy. They have reached their mid-20s. Their friends are pairing off. Kegs in the bathtub are being replaced by babies. Middle Son appears to be serious about Margaret; whether this relationship is headed for the altar, however, is not for me to say. But they're both out of school now. And she's making good money -- better than Middle Son, in fact.

That appears to chafe. He's looking for work, he said. He thinks he must rent for at least another year. He doesn't want to bite off too much at once. On the other hand, he is obviously thinking about buying a home.

"But I can't do that alone, not yet," he said. He might be able to get a nice house with Margaret, he said, but "that would open up a real can of worms."

Yes, his mother and I both wanted to scream (although, outwardly, we were models of composure), but which ones? Are we thinking matrimony here or just moving in? Long Suffering Spouse would be particularly, and loudly, opposed to any of her kids "shacking." So too was I... although my resolve may have wavered a bit when I did my taxes this year and found that I lost my last year's deduction on Younger Daughter because she and Olaf "did the right thing."

"There's entirely too much emphasis on wedding ceremonies," Long Suffering Spouse said later, after Middle Son had gone home. "If they want to get married, they should do so, they don't need a big fancy wedding."

Actually, I wonder if that might not become the fashion: Get a young couple tied up by a judge at City Hall -- civil marriage -- and then, down the road, as financial circumstances permit, allow them to plan together to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony -- the church wedding. Civil marriage and religious marriage are in the process of an acrimonious divorce as it is; I wonder if this might not be a way for the church to more gracefully separate the two. I'll have to take this up with some of the priests in my acquaintance.

We spent some time Saturday afternoon with Middle Son looking at Zillow listings -- and at Zillow's estimates on houses not up for sale, including my own. "If we could really get that for this place, maybe we should move," I told Long Suffering Spouse. "Where to?" asked Long Suffering Spouse, ever practical.

We chatted about the evils of carrying balances on credit cards. "Don't do as I do, do as I say," I said, bemoaning my nearly $50,000 in credit card debt. Middle Son had a ready rejoinder: "With all the equity you have in this house, you could take out a loan and cut the interest payments way down."

"Yeah," I said, "but then the house is at risk again." There is no easy solution that I can see unless the income stream is made more reliable -- and the unreliability of my income stream is why I have $50,000 in credit card debt in the first place. I told Middle Son that I've been shopping for zero interest balance transfers as a stopgap. He'd made that suggestion in the first place, and it was a good one.

Middle Son counseled Younger Daughter about the need to get back in the work force as soon as possible and suggested she and Olaf not even think about buying a new car if they had any hope of finding a house of their own. Inasmuch as Olaf's car has 150,000 miles on it and was in the shop for repairs Saturday, that thought had crossed their minds.

Eventually, it was time for Middle Son to head home. "You know, you could always move back here for a year if you need to save up money," Long Suffering Spouse told him.

No! No! No! I thought -- but I heard myself say, "Yeah, you could join the commune we have going here."

"I don't know if we helped much," said Long Suffering Spouse, after Middle Son was gone -- but she was happy anyway. "See? I told you he was miserable."

Don't misunderstand: Long Suffering Spouse wasn't happy because Middle Son isn't -- she was happy because she still knows her children. She's still tuned in.

We take our happiness where we can find it.

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