Monday, May 25, 2009

Portrait: Detroit, Michigan

I called my father the other day.

Our nanny had quit on her first day - which happened to be my first day returning to work from maternity leave - and I wondered if he could help us out for a week while we found someone else.

No, my sixty-year-old dad said. He had to find a job.

A job? What about your retirement? What about the gunshop?

No, said the man who had always been The Wisest Man In My Life. The shop isn't bringing in enough money and your mother's job is killing her.

My mom is a fifty-nine-year-old registered nurse in an intensive care unit. There are no orderlies and only a few LPN's. She has to lift, tuck, turn, and position patients by herself, no matter how big they are. Last month, a patient went crazy and pulled her across him. He nearly dislocated her shoulder and she still has some bruises from the encounter.

Oh, I said. Is there anything I can do to help?

No, he said. Just don't end up like us - paycheck to paycheck, no retirement, drowning in debt, with no way out.

Oh, Dad, I said. Didn't you hear? That's the new American reality.

Detroit, MI