(Karl Tiedemann and his dog)
When I introduced myself to Karl Tiedemann, I tried to ingratiate myself with his dog, reaching out my hand to let the muscular animal check whether I smelled okay. The dog growled.
I got the sense Karl was also slightly irritated at being interrupted in his walk, but he was nice enough to talk with me anyway. He’s a maintenance man at one of the local hospitals, where he’s worked for 23 years. He said the economy hasn’t really affected him—unlike many at the hospital, he’s held onto his job.
But the story is different for others in his family. It occurred to me as we talked that Karl might relish the time spent alone with his dog. He and his wife share their house with their four grown children, two of the kids’ “other halves,” and three grandchildren under age eight.
“They’ve got the wife on their side,” he said. “If it were up to me I’d kick them out.”
Karl himself left home at 17. By the time he had kids, he was making enough to support the family. His wife quit her job to be a full-time mom.
“I told her to stay home,” he said with a smile. “She didn’t fight me on it.”
In a way, Karl said, he thinks his kids should have been able to follow his example. But they and their significant others are working mostly in retail. It turns out I’ve met one member of his household, the mother of a set of one-year-old twins who’s working two retail jobs. The twins’ dad is one of Karl’s sons.
Karl said he’s also got a daughter who just started a job at a big box store making $9 an hour, after leaving a similar position at a grocery store. With jobs like these, he said, there’s no way for them to be self-sufficient unless they can somehow move into management.
For all that he says he’d rather send the kids out on their own, Karl downplayed the inconvenience of having so many people in one house. Yes, he said, there’s only one shower, but it’s not so bad. At least there’s a second bathroom.
“Before I bought this house, we were doing it with one bathroom,” he said. “That sucked.”