Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The family that stresses together, bickers

Older Daughter was in Chicago this weekend, without either her husband or dog. Older Daughter was recently implanted for the fourth time. These were frozen leftovers from her last unsuccessful attempt. The pirates that run the fertility clinic promise to refund a portion of the king's ransom that Hank and Older Daughter have paid (with the generous assistance of Hank's parents) if no baby is brought forth as a result of their efforts -- a three strikes and you're out policy -- but there are conditions, stipulations, provisos. And because of these two frozen leftovers from the last failure, Older Daughter was obliged to try again.

No one thought it would work any better this time. Not Hank, not Older Daughter, not the pirates who run the clinic. But the thieves would not consider the promised refund without this last humiliation. Older Daughter is trying to start a new job -- something about having fertility problems and working in a children's hospital was wreaking havoc with her mental health: Every time she'd fail to 'catch' some mouth-breathing idiots would present at her ER with a baby who had 'fallen.' The police would be called. Sometimes the baby would live. The poor thing would always be Older Daughter's patient -- and she would be left to consider the lunacy of a Universe where she cannot conceive a child, but where scabrous, execrable, thrice-cursed mental defectives can effortlessly pop out beautiful children, with neither thought nor effort, only to beat them to death, or near enough.

So Older Daughter found new work -- faster than she thought possible -- work that should pay more and be less stressful -- if, of course, she doesn't lose said new job in the course of losing these last embryos. Hank is venting his bitterness at Older Daughter; she vents right back. So being at home didn't seem like a good idea for her this weekend.

And she could count days on a calendar. Each prior attempt had ended at this-many-days after implantation. Each time she'd been in Indianapolis. This time, she wanted to be in Chicago. (She got through the weekend -- but the outlook is still bleak this morning. I've said this before, but it seems again an inescapable conclusion: The 'doctors' at Older Daughter's clinic can't do anything right, but they are always right about things going wrong.)

So that was a pleasant visit.

Long Suffering Spouse was sick on top of it. We supposedly got to 70 degrees on Saturday. Long Suffering Spouse wore two sweatshirts, one with a hood, curled up beneath two blankets, complaining that she was 'freezing.' It was no way to finish up her Spring Break -- and she still had mountains of papers to grade. She'd rally on Sunday, then stay up until 1:30 Monday morning trying (unsuccessfully) to finish everything she hadn't quite gotten to.

Younger Daughter and her husband are stressed, too. Olaf will -- I think -- graduate in May. Finally. He passed the exit exam a couple of months ago, but he still must complete a stupid, pointless, one-hour course that involves group presentations by math majors for other math majors. Most of the math majors at the school Olaf and Younger Daughter attended will go into teaching -- they have mastered Math Lite at best. Two of the worst of these were 'randomly' assigned to be Olaf's partners for these presentations. Olaf's grade, of course, is dependent on the performance of his colleagues. At the last such performance, one of Olaf's partners stumbled out of the room in the middle of the presentation, so drunk that he could no longer contain the contents of his stomach.

And Olaf had a lovely day at work yesterday, too. He got his job because he and Younger Daughter had a classmate whose father is president of a manufacturing concern. The father had gone to the math department at Olaf's school looking for someone to train to take over quality control at his plant, but the math department couldn't think of anyone who might be interested. It was his daughter who suggested Olaf.

And Olaf likes the work, and is good at it, too, apparently. He's not on salary yet -- his hourly wage wouldn't be that terrible, though, if he weren't hoping to support a wife and child with it -- but the plan was that he would move into a job that his boss would vacate by moving into the job that his boss would vacate. Inasmuch as Olaf's boss is 60-something and the boss's boss is 70-something and in questionable health, the succession is only a matter of training and time. But after Younger Daughter confided in her girlfriend -- the president's daughter -- about her hopes that Olaf would soon be on salary, the president took Olaf aside (this was yesterday) and said he should not expect to be put on salary upon graduation.

The young people took this rather badly. I tried to explain -- remember my mantra, act as if you own the place -- that, right now, three people are doing two jobs. Of course no big raise can be forthcoming... until the logjam breaks at the top. I suppose that Olaf is a victim of his own success -- the stress on Olaf's bosses has been lessened by his quickly learning the responsibilities of his eventual job. But time is on Olaf's side -- if he doesn't overreact.

I was home yesterday to deal with this crisis in real time because Younger Daughter had a doctor's appointment and I was supposed to babysit The Granddaughter To Be Named Later. Younger Daughter is worried about a condition -- I haven't pressed for details obviously -- but she feels the need to see the surgeon who removed the better part of my colon. My wife is sure that Younger Daughter's problem, whatever it is, is not that serious. But I haven't discouraged Younger Daughter -- not with our family history. Even so, this was not supposed to be a long session, and I had hopes that the baby might even sleep through the whole thing -- the doctor's appointment time coincided with baby's nap time. But it was a particularly short session, actually, because, despite Long Suffering Spouse's repeated admonishments, Younger Daughter somehow managed to forget to bring her insurance card with her.

Speaking of Long Suffering Spouse, she had a terrible day yesterday, too. She'd gone to a seminar Thursday -- during her break -- and she needed to provide her principal with her certificate of attendance and, of course, the bill for said seminar, in order to obtain reimbursement. She'd copied everything herself, everything except the bill, which I dug out yesterday morning and copied for her. Not without changing the print cartridge, of course, but still, I handed her the missing piece of paper and I watched her clip it into the rest of the related papers -- and then I resumed doing whatever I had been doing previously.

Early in the morning I had a phone call from Long Suffering Spouse. Had she left these papers at home? I checked all the locations she asked, and a few more besides: No, she had not. She'd gone through her papers six different times, she said, and couldn't find it either. Had she given these papers to the principal inadvertently, stuck behind her lesson plans? If she had, the principal hadn't found them by late afternoon. I'd already called Long Suffering Spouse wondering if she was planning to return home before dark and a time had been duly appointed when I should fetch her. In between, though, the principal found her. "I forgot to tell you," enthused the principal, "I found a whole new Spanish textbook -- everything online. I want you to take a look at it." Long Suffering Spouse was still reeling from the blow as she related this to me in the school parking lot. "You know what this means, don't you?" she asked, rhetorically. "She wants me to change textbooks. I'll have to re-plan the entire program. Start from scratch."

Older Daughter called at this point, so I was back at the computer when Long Suffering Spouse next blew up. She'd gone into the kitchen and realized that Younger Daughter had taken no steps toward preparing dinner.

Well, in addition to the aborted doctor's appointment and the employment crisis, Younger Daughter had taken the baby to the pediatrician.

See, the baby has decided that now would be a great time to sprout some teeth.

Baby teeth literally do erupt, I'd pointed out to Olaf over the weekend. Yesterday there was nothing. Now there's a tooth. You could run your fingers over the baby's lower gum and feel it. Everyone did. "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" cried the baby. In baby talk that means, "I sure as heck hope you all washed your hands first."

Anyway, with teeth come all sorts of other problems. Sleep becomes more fitful, for one. And the baby, always prone to diaper rash, now has a fire engine-red bottom that would make a baboon jealous. Long Suffering Spouse has been trying to counsel the kids to use cloth diapers. I've chimed in. But it turns out they're really afraid of pins -- they don't want to stick the baby. I stuck all of my kids, from time to time. I stuck myself more. It's a small price to pay to avoid extreme baboon butt. But Younger Daughter went to the doctor instead, hoping to get medicine. She never did get into the kitchen, though, and her mother was not pleased.

"We had babies. They all had teething problems. We still ate." Long Suffering Spouse was on a roll. "I don't think that girl would eat at all if she weren't living here," she told me (the kids had gone out by this time to fill the prescription and to buy more formula).

Long Suffering Spouse made dinner for all of us. She and I ate ours and went for a walk. The kids were still out. "I don't think I can work any harder," she told me as we made the turn at the park. "I don't think Older Daughter can do more than she's doing. And Younger Daughter is so stressed out by that baby -- I don't know how we can get them through this." I'd told her, by this time, about the salary crisis. "They're going to be with us forever," she said, "and they think you want to throw them out." Sure, I want my house back, I said -- but I understand what must be done and I'm doing it -- why can't everyone understand that?

"And you can't work any harder," Long Suffering Spouse said.

I had to contradict her. "I'm not nearly at capacity," I admitted. "I've been lots busier, done lots more. I just can't get any money for what I do."

"So you're stressed by that. That's just as bad."

I had to be home Monday to babysit. But I planned to also work seriously on a questionnaire, required for an appointment I am seeking. Some salesmanship is required, as is total recall of my 33 years at the bar. And I must be accurate. But even if the persons who will evaluate me based on the questionnaire love me to death -- it won't boost my chances of securing that appointment. On the other hand, if they hate me, or if even some of them hate me, however, it will surely doom whatever infinitesimal chances I might have. So I must still do the best job I can.

The fax machine spat out an overdue bill this morning. These are for medical records for an insurance client that is behind in paying my bills. I got a bill in the email yesterday for a "service" that this same insurer makes me use -- one that allows it to delay paying my bills while they are being "processed." And I pay for the privilege. I thought I'd written about this, but I may not have had the stomach for it.

The first time I heard that $275 was involved in my signing up for this "service," I thought it was meant for me -- some wholly inadequate compensation, at least, for the exorbitant time I spent trying to meet the system requirements. It took six months to get my first bill paid -- and in the meantime I had found out that, no, I was expected to fork over $275 for this privilege. I don't know whether it was my whining or my raving that got the fee waived last year -- but I can expect no such accommodation this year.

So I'll continue working on my questionnaire this afternoon, not that it will do any good. If we do nothing, we can hope for nothing better.

No comments: