Growing Families are highly affected with the economic hardship and continuous growth of unemployment. Read more from this NYTimes.com article.
It all started with small talk.
What bus was he taking?
She was, too.
Phone numbers were exchanged, and five years later, James Eisenhardt and his wife, Rukmini Ramkumar, whom he affectionately calls Rose, live in an unassuming apartment in Ozone Park, Queens, with their 1-year-old daughter, Karina, and Ms. Ramkumar’s two children from a previous relationship. “Part of the package,” Mr. Eisenhardt jokes.
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Their living room is sparsely decorated, without a television set. There is a framed photograph of Mr. Eisenhardt at 17, in his Marine Corps uniform. The same photograph hangs in the couple’s bedroom.
Six years serving in the military taught Mr. Eisenhardt, 52, to face family hardships head on. “It’s not about me, it’s about them — that’s my job,” he said. “I have to be strong to make that sacrifice.”
After losing his job driving for a livery cab company, Mr. Eisenhardt found seasonal work as a commercial driver for FedEx. But the hours were simply not enough. The pressure on him to maintain a stable working life was recently compounded by surprising news: Another baby is on the way, due in May.
“I had no idea,” said Ms. Ramkumar, 40, placing a hand on her rounded stomach. “I thought I was going through early menopause, like my mother.”
Ms. Ramkumar, with a young child of her own, can no longer seek employment as a babysitter. Her daughter Haimwatti Lall, 20, had to take out loans to attend medical technician training school; her son, Purshdev Lall, is still in high school.
Karina was born prematurely. When they brought her home from the hospital, she slept in a tiny crib that was given to the family by a friend. By that time, Mr. Eisenhardt was out of work, and his Taxi and Limousine Commission driver’s license had expired. When the baby outgrew the crib, she slept in between her parents.
“We have no luxuries, everything goes to the house,” said Mr. Eisenhardt, referring to the family’s food and utility bills.
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Mr. Eisenhardt, who has chronic depression and arrhythmia, receives a monthly Social Security disability check of $1,444. The family’s rent is $1,500.
“We have a long way to go,” he said.
For help, Mr. Eisenhardt turned to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, one of the seven organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. The family received a $500 Target gift card, paid for by the fund, which they used to buy a convertible crib that turns into a bed, along with new sheets, diapers and baby wipes.
“Even I use the baby wipes,” said Mr. Eisenhardt, laughing, as he wrestled with Karina, who was quietly fidgeting in his lap.
Mr. Eisenhardt was able to renew his taxi license with the help of Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council’s support services for veterans.
And three weeks ago, he found a new job driving a livery cab and was able to return to work, though he and Rose had to borrow $100 to buy him a black suit for the job.
Despite the turnaround a return to work represents, Mr. Eisenhardt is still hoping for something that would provide his family with a more comfortable standard of living. He drives for 10 to 12 hours at a stretch, pays for gas out of his own pocket and mostly relies on his commissions.
“It’s really hard to predict what your income is going to be,” he said.
The family is now focused on finding a new place to live; there is a continuing legal dispute with the landlord, and the family has had problems keeping up with the rent in the past. The possibility of eviction looms.
Mr. Eisenhardt laments the move into the apartment three years ago, and says things have been going downhill ever since. “It’s two steps forward, and three steps back.”
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Ms. Ramkumar agreed. “No luck.”
Marriage and children were far from Mr. Eisenhardt’s mind five years ago. Today, they are what keep him going. “Every day I get up, and I think: ‘Well tomorrow’s another day. Got to turn this corner and see some sunlight.’ ”
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