Whatever happened to Owen?

 One of the perks of having children is being able to watch an alternate version of your life unfold before your very eyes. It’s like some Hollywood remake with different actors, contemporary references and better hair, but the story and themes are more or less the same. “I’ve seen this before,” you say. “I know how it turns out.”

Right now, our eldest daughter Emily is starring in the scene of her first grownup job. It’s not as though she’s been working a sidewalk lemonade stand all this time, but this is the first job where her university degree has come into play, where showing up for work with bicycle grease on her leggings might not be on, where tips aren’t involved. She’ll be working with lawyers, for God’s sake.

Em is excited about this new job – nine-to-five, weekends off, benefits! – but also mourning the death of her youth. She’s working with lawyers; I’d be more concerned about the death of her soul.

“I’m basically 40 now,” she says.

Well, no, not quite.

But when you take on that first meaningful job, the one that hints of “career,” it does mean the start – and end – of certain things.

I remember when Deb and I were planning our lives, before kids. She was working at a restaurant, I was punching a clock in production at The Suburban, a Montreal weekly. We were going to travel Canada, explore the backroads, live off our wits (which would have made for a short trip). We were in no rush to become certified adults. Why on earth would we want that?

Then Emily came along. So much for travel. Wait: there was still travel, but it involved a car seat and occasional projectile vomiting.

We became grownups pretty quickly. Ultimately, we skipped the transitional link to adulthood that Emily’s going through, so there’s not much advice we can give her about how long to stay in a job, what to do about her own dreams of travel, when it is and isn’t appropriate to make lawyer jokes.

We became grownups, sure, but it took a while to settle into our grownup jobs. Not long after Emily was born, I quit The Suburban so I could take a crack at freelance writing. That was back when you could still draw pogey after quitting, back when newspapers actually hired people. Deb, meanwhile, returned to working at a restaurant. Looking back on this period, our parents must have been losing their minds.

Just over a year after Emily was born, we moved to the Townships where I began working at The Stanstead Journal, a decidedly grownup job that nonetheless allowed me to maintain the immature lifestyle to which I’d become accustomed. This was followed by three more children, a house, insurance, retirement savings….

Deb and I have changed careers a couple of times since. But as they tentatively navigate their own futures, I’m sure our kids must look in dismay at the way we came here and just… stopped. They must think our life is like one of those foreign films where people talk around a dinner table about existence and then go to bed early.

The other day, I uncovered a woodcut print given to me by a co-worker named Owen on the day I left The Suburban. The print depicts a man with a goofy grin on his face. He’s walking through an empty city, tie loosened, with a dog on a leash, the sun shining. It’s called “Oh Happy Day!” Owen said it’s a picture of a man on his last day of work.

I can’t remember Owen’s family name, and I can’t make it out on the print. He was a good guy. He had a ponytail, but I might have been in my bandana phase then, so I can’t say anything. I think Owen and I could have become great friends if I had stayed at that non-grownup job.

I wonder from time to time what happened to Owen. Does he still have a ponytail? Does he still listen to Joy Division? Does he still make art? Did he take on a grownup job? Did his life stop? Or was it, like mine, filled with adventures that his kids don’t even realize? Is he now watching the scary parts of his children’s own movie-lives through his fingers?

Because it turns out we don’t know how this ends.

And who doesn’t like a surprise ending?


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Whatever happened to Owen?

  1. Paul says:

    Faith Ross, have faith my friend ( i mean in the workings of the universe) She’ll find her way fine and discover for what she will assume is the first time in human history, some basic truths. Meanwhile you and Deb will appear to get smarter and smarter to her – surely something that can’t hurt your ego. 😀

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Isn’t that the great thing? We all think we’re first to discover profound miracles, like having babies, for example. It’s also what keeps us writing.

      • Paul says:

        Bwahaha! You don’t pull any punches do you? sigh. I think I’ll go back to bed now and cover my head after that truth.

  2. Karen says:

    I’ve often thought about this–the people, like Owen, who move in and out of our lives, take center stage for awhile, then exit, and we never know how their particular play ends.

    Awhile back, I ran into a guy I went to grad school with, and we played “Remember that guy/girl?” for a bit and shared what we knew about what had become of these folks. He told me that he had heard that one of the women we worked with, who I knew only casually, had been murdered, along with her young daughter, possibly drug-related (I googled and found the news story when I got home-the crime is unsolved). I’m still not over the shock of hearing how her story ended.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      That’s horrible. But why are we so surprised when that happens? Statistically, of all the people we encounter, there’s a probability. But it doesn’t lessen the shock. I often think that, statistically, someone I’ve known in my life must have done porn. I thought you’d appreciate that.

      • Karen says:

        Isn’t it worse not be surprised? “Oh, yeah, right. She seemed just the sort to wind up dead in a crack house in North Philly.”
        Or, as in your example, co-starring in a Japanese rope bondage scene with some guy who couldn’t find work after he got let go from Benihana’s.

        I don’t know. I think it’s because we don’t expect the people we know, who all seem as boring as we are, to live and die dramatically. But those Lifetime movies are usually based on someone’s actual life, aren’t they? So I guess there are people out there who do other stuff beyond sitting at a desk, wondering if it’s too early to go to lunch yet. They’re out there getting murdered, and filming porn, and getting Lifetime movies made about them.

  3. Does it say Holmes in the corner?

  4. List of X says:

    But look on the bright side – you get to look forward to you being the guy who’s happy with not having to work any more. Emily and your younger kids have to look forward to decades of soul-crushing, or, hopefully, just soul-chipping 9-to-5 jobs.
    You have to look forward to enjoying having grandkids (it’s like getting most of joys of having kids with only a tiny fraction of obligations – although you’re still not out of the woods with your own kids yet), and your kids have to look forward to having to “grow up” and settle down.
    Do I sound too depressing re: your kids prospects? Probably.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      It’s all the big circle of life.
      My older kids are kind of floundering. But I think when I was 24, did I know what I wanted to be? Well, sort of. I wanted to write. And yet, despite those low expectations for myself, look at me now!
      But seriously, I think kids are under more pressure/expectation to have it all figured out at 18. Where’s the fun in that? At least, that’s what I keep telling myself, and them.

  5. Elyse says:

    Actually, lawyers aren’t really all that soul-crunching. I’ve worked with them all my life. They’re bright and most I’ve known have fabulous senses of humor. She’ll be fine…

  6. Ned's Blog says:

    The one thing I’ve learned is that we all want our kids to have more than we did while, at the same time, knowing it was the struggles and risks that defined our character. I can say with confidence that you’re a man of character, Ross. No doubt, your daughter will maintain hers even in the midst of lawyers — just like you kept that wooden etching long after you lost touch with Owen. Some thing are just etched into who we are.

  7. kirizar says:

    Pogey must be a Canadian thing. Is it like unemployment…or a thing you might dig out of an orifice?

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    It’s nice, I recognized the woodcut from your email, though not the name, Owen. Which is a really good name, right? And recognized the projectile vomiting, the soul-suckingness of lawyers. Good for you and Em, you done well. Keep that bedroom warm though in case she needs to come back, right? I don’t mean to wish that on you but you know, I’m 45 and Dawn’s 46…alright, enough said. I think it’s good if they come back, with the knowledge they’ll leave again. Cheers, Bill

  9. Paul says:

    As an aside Ross, I just did a guest post over at Mark Bialczak’s http://markbialczak.com/2016/03/13/a-short-drive/ If you have time to drop by for a read, I would be honored.

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