We have an old friend who deserves your admiration, because he’s doing his level best to help Keep America Strong.  He may not have set out to do this, but why quibble about intent, when the outcome is all that matters.  Imagine this conversation between him and his wife of many years:

Wife:  “Honey, we really need to redo the kitchen.  We’ve lived here for more than 20 years, and it’s time for new appliances and cabinets, and…”

Friend:  “Fine, fine.  That sounds reasonable.  Find out what it costs , and let’s see what we can do.”

Time passes, bids are submitted, and so….

A little improvement project....

Okay, so maybe there’s a little structural work involved as well — a bigger breakfast nook, which he definitely needs now that both of his kids have moved out for good.  It’s good to stretch out and let the bacon settle before walking his dog (actually, his daughter’s dog, but she lives in a small apartment in Boston now, and doesn’t have the room or the time to walk the little critter, which is the size of a pony).

Now my friend, who is completely at home with banking arcana like “VaR” (Value at Risk) and CoVaR (don’t ask), was getting a little puzzled by some of the bids he is getting from the contractor.  Somehow, this project has expanded into areas he had thought he understood, but clearly some miscommunication or simple lapse of attention has muddied what he had assumed was a clear picture.  Because suddenly:

"What's that growing out of our bedroom?"

“Well, as long as we’re enlarging the kitchen, it turned out to make sense to add onto the bedroom upstairs….”

“Add what?  A billiard room?”

“No, just a bigger bathroom and more closet space….”

Okay.  You may have done some renovation yourselves, and understand that sometimes these things happen, and you find yourself in a somewhat more ambitious enterprise than originally contemplated.  You can’t exactly go backwards now.   Especially my friend, who is devoted to his family (you already knew that from the bit about the dog), and, although he won’t spend a nickel on himself, empties his pockets with an almost federal largess when it comes to his wife and children.

But then:

The cancer metastasizes...

The next thing he knows his entire house is covered in plastic sheeting.  He is pissing sawdust.  He has to move into his basement, and there’s no way this is all getting finished before Christmas.  Hell, he’ll be lucky if they let him back upstairs for Valentine’s Day.  But at least he’s doing his bit to keep America’s home builders above water during this difficult period, and he’s nothing if not patriotic.

I had lunch with him today.  He’s badly shaken.  Not long ago he could come home to a nice relaxing cocktail and a home-cooked meal; now, as he says, “I’m lucky if she makes a reservation.  I live in a bunker — for all I know, Adolf and Eva will be dropping in for the holidays.  My daughter is thinking maybe Christmas in Cancun with her friends might be nice.  My son and his new wife are afraid to call — he spent twenty five years feeding at my trough, and now that he has a home of his own, he’s probably worried I think this is my big chance to get even.  All I’ve got is the dog, and even he’s worried, because he already knows what it is to be homeless.”

“Have another drink,” I explained.

So count your blessings.  Maybe your house is worth less than it used to be (whose isn’t?), and maybe it’s been a while since you think you’ve caught a break.  But look at my friend.  He just wanted to make someone happy — and he did.  The contractor is exultant.