Dec 27, 2011

The Christmas Letter I Didn't Send

Despite the reason this holiday season should have been the most sorrowful time of the year, it wasn't. All the merry festivities were actually fun and helped take my mind off the twists and turns that caused 2011 to suck big-time.

Let's recap:

The year started off uneventful. Nothing of major consequence happened in January.

In February we were so proud to hear (after being unemployed for 2 years,) our 26-year-old son landed a maintenance job at Walmart.

In March we realized there were some logistic problems with his commute from our house to his work, so he started making plans for his own place.

In the middle of April the printing company my husband worked at for nearly 11 years shuttered its doors. It was a small, family owned business so there wasn't any severance pay, 401K conversion decision or retirement package. It was a handshake and one final check for unused vacation.

While we were still reeling from that slap in the face, the real bomb of 2011 exploded on April 30 when we had to discontinue life support for our son. Others would argue that his life ended April 29 when he accidentally overdosed on heroin, causing him to be brain dead, but I'm going with the date on his death certificate.

On May 1st, which was to be our son's moving day, we forfeited the deposit on his new apartment instead. We had a lovely and meaningful memorial service on May 5.

"So, okay, 2011, ease up on us," I thought to myself. "We have had about all we can handle." But 2011 must have known our limitations better than we did.

In June my creative director sat in my office guest chair and began to relay a rumor. Her words rocked my very foundation, which was still pretty shaky from April. My brain tried, but couldn't quite grasp what "voluntary" early retirement package (VERP) for associates 55 and older could mean.

On June 11 I turned 55.

July brought more rumors. Phrases like pension, years of service and SRP littered the office banter.

By September the rumor became official. The company and the job I had adored and given 23 years of absolute devotion wanted me to leave. Why? Seemingly because of my age. Isn't that illegal? Well, evidently not if you're offered lots of money (heretofore known as a retirement package), in exchange for your signature that you won't bring up the age discrimination thing in a court of law.

The month also brought some good news finally! My daughter and her husband called to tell us they were expecting our first grandchild.

At the beginning of October we rented out our upstairs space to a new room mate so we could afford to stay in our large suburban home.

A few days before October 15 (the deadline to accept the VERP), my creative director (who was also 55 and over) walked me over to HR assuring me it was for good news. Not only was I being early retired, but my job was being eliminated. That entitled me to (in addition to the retirement package) a severance package (heretofore known as a lump sum) and qualified me for unemployment.

In the middle of October our daughter called to say she had miscarried.

At the end of October I packed up my office and without ceremony, left my cubicle, my long-time younger friends, my creative writing job and the modern campus-style building that's only a 10-minute drive from home.

In November I started looking for new employment "opportunities" even though I was officially on the payroll until December 1. This new "downtime" also gave me plenty of time to think about how much I missed my son.

In December I joined my husband (he's still getting government checks, thanks to Obama's extensions) and signed up for unemployment.

And that brings us to today. The packages (and lump sums) have been received, the eggnog is but a sweet memory and our real pine Christmas tree is losing needles at an alarming rate. In light of it all, I'm in good spirits.

I really need to lay off the history channel, though. It's armageddon week on H2. If 2011 was a prick, 2012 is predicted by the Mayans and Nostradamus to be a real bitch.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!