I'd like to veer away from my current focus on the doomed and one-sided romance that will dominate the transition to what many of us hope will be the era of straight reprints and return to a topic I covered before: what the modern-day Pattersons will be doing in the future. As you know, I submitted an entry that broke the strip's history down into four eras: the Early, Middle, Later and Declining Years, each of which began with a stressful and ultimately unnecessary catastrophe. If John and Phil had had a sense of direction and the brains to come in out of the rain, if Elly had had the brains to have the gate fixed, if Deanna and Mike had simply told Mira the truth and hashed things out and if the Pattersons and their servitors had not interfered in Anthony's life, the differing eras would have flowed into one another less jarringly. Based on what has come before and how these people act, I think we can safely divide the future of the Patterson-Caine family to discreet eras as well. I believe that things would go something like this:
- The Obstructive Years: It seems to me that without Jim or John's parents alive to gainsay them, the first few years of John and Elly's retirement will occasion new heights of meddling in Mike and Liz's home lives. Not only can we look forward to more demonization of Mira for wanting to have any influence at all over Meredith and Robin and more praise of Mrs Caine for being invisible, we can also rest assured that the lackeys that Elly permitted her children to marry would insist that she have final say over what happened to her grandchildren. As for 'that woman's child', it seems obvious that Elly will do all she can to make Françoise feel unwelcome and unwanted; to do otherwise would give credence to the haters' theory that she'd meddled in something that wasn't her business and created innocent victims. (She'll also point to how Molly and Gayle Thomas resented Connie for no reason she can allow herself to see as being reason enough to want to make Liz's life more harmonious.) All that will, of course, be of secondary importance because Elly's primary focus will be to bludgeon Meredith into giving way to Robin on every issue of substance because he can carry on the family name. We should also note that Elly and John would spend Christmastime muttering angrily about the ungrateful Martian who moved out West and doesn't talk to them much. Given how poorly Elly has taken care of herself and her piss-poor attitude, I think it's safe to say that her sort-of-untimely death at the age of seventy will bring in the next era.
- The Chaotic Years: Given that Elly had made Mike and Liz dependent on her by making them unable to decide things on their own and how, without her to be beholden to, Anthony and Deanna will be similarly rudderless, it seems to me that the Pattersons of the 2020s would have neither the experience nor the wisdom to cope with the stresses that face them as their children are ready to head out into the world. I don't, after all, see the Mike that rescued a laptop or the Liz that rattled on about tokens that said she was taken to be able to handle the challenges their adult children will have to deal with. The only means of escape would, I think, be a crisis that laid bare how ineffective, selfish and destructive a human being Elly was; let's say, as a for instance, that a twenty-one year old Meredith were diagnosed with Hodgkin's like Delta from Luann. When Mike and Deanna managed to screw their heads on straight (with plenty of help from John, Mira and April) after months of Elly-like flapping, honking and failing to adapt to circumstances, they'd finally look back on the past objectively and see how foolish they were to hitch their wagons to a potato-nosed star. Similarly, Liz would have a real final confrontation with Thérèse and be made to see how petty and misguided her mother was and how she'd made a mess of things trying to please the old biddy.
- The Maturing Years. After Mike and Liz had finally started to live their lives as autonomous adults instead of the dependents of a narcissistic freak with entitlement issues, we could probably expect to see them getting along as well as we could expect siblings to. There'd be good days and bad but nothing like the horrors of the turn of the century. Without Elly's baleful, ruinous influence, we can finally expect good things for them and feel confident that they'll live steady, regular lives.