I'd recently returned home after graduating from college. I'd taken a degree in business, but hadn't really applied myself while doing so. I knew my father had plans for me to eventually succeed him at his factory, but I really wasn't looking forward to a career spent manufacturing women's shoes. This lack of motivation had kept me from really attending to my studies.
I'd only been home for little more than a day before I started sensing the atmosphere of anxiety and worry among the various family members. This was particularly true of my grandmother, mother, and both my younger siblings. My father was probably just as upset as the others, but he managed to disguise it from me if he was.
Matters started coming to a head at the dinner table that second evening after I'd returned home. It was my mother who initiated this new topic of conversation.
"Kevin, do you remember Joanne Dunleavy?" Her question quieted all the other table conversation when she asked me this.
"I remember her. We were friends in elementary school. I think her parents took her out of the public school after seventh grade. I think I remember hearing that she went to some boarding school in either Maine or Vermont. I've seen her, over the years, maybe three or four times, usually in the Summer. What about her?"
"Her father approached your Dad, asking about you. He wanted to know what your future plans were. He asked Dad to ask you to come see him at his office in New Haven, at your earliest convenience. Your father and I were wondering what that was all about?"
"I'm sure I don't know. I'm not sure I've even met Joanne's parents. Maybe he wants to offer me a job, or something like that."
"There have been rumors, disturbing stories about that girl and her antics. If any of it is true, she isn't the type of girl you'd want to get involved with. I heard that she is pregnant too." My father wanted to go on the record as being opposed to my having anything to do with Joanne and her family. It wasn't that unusual for him to make these kinds of announcements.
"The Dunleavy's are a fine family, Gerald. From what I've been able to gather, they've managed to weather the downturn in this economy far better than most. Certainly better than we've fared." Grandmother Pittman, my mother's mother, looked right at my father as she made her statement more an accusation and indictment of him, than any real praise of the Dunleavy family. The sour look on my father's face gave good indication that he had absorbed her unsubtle barb. This was my first indication that all wasn't well with our company. My grandmother didn't usually insinuate herself into these types of family conversations. For her to do so now, and with the way she'd done so, was telling.
"Are we having problems at the factory, Dad?" I hadn't looked forward to having a career there, but the profits from the company were what provided our above average living standard.
"It is hard for us to compete with the prices from all the Asian imports. People no longer seem to appreciate fine craftsmanship. They make their purchasing decisions on price alone." I could tell that it had cost my father a significant amount in admitting that his factory couldn't compete with the rising tide of foreign imports.