As I curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket, my laptop, and a fresh cup of coffee in the wee hours of morning pondering the Writing 101 assignment for the day, my mind travels back to when I first opened the email that contains this particular assignment….
It’s amazing the memories that you’re brain holds on to. I remember thinking of how pleasant an assignment idea it was, ‘update my readers over a cup of coffee’. This was something I did with every post anyway.
I awoke each morning and drove my husband to work. I got back home to a dark, quiet house for a few more hours that I used to blog. Then I awoke my children, drove my son to school, did household chores and daily errands, and in between would play with my daughter while slipping in teachings of her colors and shapes and letters.
My biggest worries were how long it would take to finish my degree. If it would pay off in the end. If my business idea would be as successful as I anticipated. When my mind would wander it would fall upon dreams of the remodeling being done on our home and my business flourishing and my kids blossoming in their education.
Oh were those the days….
Only a few short months ago, yet so much has changed. My husband lost his job two months before he was officially diagnosed with cancer. He spent those two months in and out of hospitals no less than three times a week trying to find out why he was so ill. I spent my days much the same as before, except I no longer had time to teach our daughter or do household chores or run daily errands. I spent the majority of my days sitting on uncomfortable emergency room chairs wondering why my husband was still so, so sick.
By the time he was finally diagnosed we had already begun receiving shut off notices. We had already maxed out my son’s allowed absences through his school. Due to his being through school of choice I was required to provide his transportation. Frankly, it became excruciatingly difficult to be at his school at drop off and pick up times and hours away at specialist appointments with my husband. We had moved to the city because of a better job opportunity for my husband, at the cost of moving away from all of our family and friends. Now, I was the only capable driver in the home, and there were far more places that needed driven to than I could accomplish alone.
I was in over my head. I was overwhelmed. I was so scared. I was trying to be so strong. Less than a week after his official diagnosis I dropped out of college with two weeks left in the semester, simply because I emotionally and physically couldn’t cope. Within days of that, I had a nervous breakdown and was put on antidepressant/anxiety pills and became involved in intensive counseling. All the while I was still driving my son to school, driving my husband to the hospital nearly 5 times a week, driving him to specialists, and on and on. And every day the demands for payment on our shut off notices grew more and more intense.
I desperately searched for a job where the hours would still allow me to transport my family where they needed to be, but no such job existed and no one we knew was close enough to help me. I didn’t know what else to do. We were drowning and I couldn’t keep us afloat. I applied for cash assistance through welfare.
I gave them all the proofs they needed. I explained our circumstances. I pleaded for help to just get us through until school let out in June. But rules are rules and cash assistance rules state that I had to go through their workshop five days a week, eight hours a day, for a month before I was eligible for help. Okay. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do. Only the workshop started the same time my son’s school started and were on the opposite side of town. The first day I was fifteen minutes late and my application for assistance was denied due to failure to comply.
I cried to my family. I cried to my doctors. I was doing everything I could to hold everything together… but I desperately needed help. I cried to anyone willing to listen. Anyone I hoped could help.
We were days away from living with no electric. No water. No cooking fuel. After weeks of pleading, we finally agreed to allow my husbands sister to set up a Go Fund Me account. We needed to move back home. We needed to be back closer to our family. I NEEDED our family. I NEEDED help. I couldn’t do it all by myself.
My sister in law briefly explained our situation on the account. She explained how we needed help to move back home. She didn’t say that we were on the verge of living without any utilities. She didn’t say that I was currently receiving therapy for a mental breakdown. She didn’t say that if I didn’t figure out how to stay in the city until school ended that I would have truancy officers and cps involved. She didn’t say how desperate we truly were. But, I didn’t think she had to.
I thought others would understand. I thought they would see how badly we needed them to be reaching out for their help. I thought they would just know.
I thought others would understand that I needed a home to move to before I sold the one I was in. I thought others would understand that my son needed to finish school. I thought others would understand that I needed a moment to settle before finding a job and holding our own. I thought they would just know.
No body helped. The page got shared a handful of times. But no one was there. I screamed for help. I screamed that I needed someone. And no body was there.
It literally crushed me.
I didn’t expect much. I knew others were struggling too. But, I didn’t expect to be so utterly cast aside. I didn’t expect to be so alone.
We ended up selling the camaro that we bought a few months ago to fix up. It didn’t sell for much. It still needed fixed up. We ended up selling our house that we bought less than a year before. It didn’t sell for much. It still needed fixed up.
We left the city a month before school ended. We pulled our son away from tear filled friends. We left behind our tear filled oldest daughter. We left my oldest sister homeless. We had just enough money to cover moving expenses and have a little bit left over that we hoped might cover a down payment in a future home. We left behind our beds, our dressers, our books, our toys. With only room in our u-haul trailer for the few clothes and sentimental items that would fit, we moved onto my mother in laws living room floor.
Two days later I started my new job. I was working ten hour days, six days a week. In my “spare time” we cleaned out my mother in laws glorified shed and found a cheap mattress and bunk bed set. We lived in her shed for over a month. All the while fighting off threats from truancy and cps because I couldn’t figure out how to meet the four hour daily transportation needs it required to let my son finish out the school year and refused to put him in a new school with less than a month to go, given everything he had recently been through.
We spent every second we could find scanning various websites and newspapers for land contract homes in our area. We finally found one that would work for us and was in our price range. We dealt with the financing company, sending applications, income proofs, and the like for over three weeks before we were told that there was an interested party ahead of us that had closed on the home. Immediately we called up a back up plan home that was not one we wanted, not in a town we desired to live in, but was a home none the less. It too, had closed within the hour of us calling on it.
We were out of options.
My husbands cancer specialist appointment came up and I painfully forfeited the 300 dollar perfect attendance bonus at work to be there for him. His test results were better than expected and shined a little light on our frustrating days.
Finally another home was posted for land contract and my husband called on it before I even got home to ask, in fear that it would be gone had he waited. It was small. Our children would have to share a room until we could afford to build on. The down payment was twice what we had saved. In desperation that we would begin the winter months with no home to call our own, it became our sole focus to obtain this home. We got screwed in the pricing process. We got screwed in the land contract details. We are now in nearly 4,000 dollars worth of debt that needs paid off as soon as possible as well as once again being responsible for house payments. But, we have a home.
We spent the next month fixing the well before we could even move in. We spent the final two weeks of fixing that well living in the home, having to re-prime the pump EVERY time we ran water. Showers? 1 minute tops of freezing cold water. But when you’ve worked ten hours in a broiling factory, a shower is something you simply can’t skip. Laundry? Forget it. Dishes? That was a process! We barely even had the essentials moved in, organized enough to be accessible. But, we had a home.
Fourth of July weekend was the FIRST weekend since we moved out of the city and back home that I had more than one day off of work to get anything accomplished. Boy did I have an overly ambitious list! I was going to celebrate the holiday. Fourth of July is also our wedding anniversary, so it’s a holiday we go all out on.
Originally, I had planned on a three day vacay to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We would visit the island my husbands grandmother was raised on. We would go out on the fairy to see the fireworks. We would visit all the fantastic tourist attractions. We would come back home Monday afternoon, exhausted, with hardly enough time to prepare for work the next day. It sounded fabulous!
Unfortunately the last three checks had been completely spent on well repairs and we still owed out almost 4 grand and had a house payment due the following week and bills would be coming soon after that. So plans were accommodated and I looked forward to a simple weekend just as much. Bonfires, drinking, smores, fireworks, moving the rest of our stuff, organizing the kids room, I had so many plans.
The week before my first real weekend off of work my truck had broke down. My husband could fix the problem, once we got money to buy the parts. It would cost just over a hundred dollars. Most of the week I begged for rides into work and prayed to find a way home before the end of the day. Thursday after work my husband borrowed the money for the parts and stayed up half the night fixing my truck. Friday I happily drove it to work with a refreshed sense of freedom and love for my truck. I had an amazing day, being that it was the first one that week that wasn’t spent worrying about how I would get back home. After work on July 1st I rushed to the bank and withdrew my paycheck. I rushed to pay back the money my husband borrowed. Then I rushed home to meet the internet guy that was there to install our phone and internet.
July 2nd my husband was given one last idea to attempt to fix our well before admitting defeat and waiting until we had the 1500 dollars to hire a well expert to come and tell us what it would cost for them to fix the problem. Once again, my entire check I had left ended up going into well repairs.
He worked all day July 2nd until the darkness of the night prevented him from working any longer. Sore and aching and sick, he jumped back into the well pit July 3rd and continued working. I spent the days attempting to get my long list of tasks around the house accomplished, motivated by the extra days off to get so many projects done. Every few second I had to drop what I was doing though and run to the pump switch and flip it on and flip it off and flip it on and flip it off….
Earlier we had told my husbands mother that we would take her to see her brother that day. He lived in an adult care home over an hour away and her car simply was not in shape to be driving that distance. She thought with me having so much to do before returning to work that I wouldn’t want to, but I greatly looked forward to the visit. I hadn’t been able to go since I had started working two months before. As the day wore on we reassured her with every phone call that as soon as my husband was done with the well we would go.
A little after 3pm on July 3rd the well was FINALLY fixed… we hoped. My husband quickly showered, I filled my travel coffee mug, his mother met us at our house, and we headed out on the long drive to visit her brother.
I was surprised by the amount of traffic. Being the third I thought most of the traffic would wait until the following day to be on the freeway. As we cruised along I figured all my fellow freeway travelers also suspected it would be much busier the following day. Traffic was moving at a steady pass though.
I had my window cracked an inch or so. It was warm that day, but my mother in law was directly behind me and I didn’t want to rudely bombard her with wind. She was talking to my husband steadily, filling him in on all the events of the week before, as we cruised along. I drove on silently, partly in the conversation, partly in my thoughts as I watched the traffic.
My mother in law talked quietly. That and the loud wind that whipped by my ear from my cracked window made it difficult to hear a good portion of her conversation. I was excited about our water being fixed. I looked forward to getting a real shower when we got back home. A shower that could actually last longer than a minute. I thought about the laundry and dishes I could get done. The floor I could now mop. The prospect of being able to complete these tasks excited me. I thought about what tasks I wanted to make a priority. What things I needed to get done before returning to work. I thought about how happy our uncle would be to see us. I thought about how nice it was to be able to visit him. I thought about the KFC $5 meal deals my mother in law might get us on the way home. I saw the trucks pulling boats and campers and remembered how much slower I too had to drive when I was hauling the u-haul trailer.
I moved into the passing lane to get ahead of the line of slightly slower moving travelers. I thought about how much longer the line seemed to be as I began looking for an appropriate spot to merge back over. I wondered how much further up our exit was. I sped up, passing the line faster, getting to where I could merge back over sooner. I saw an opening and thought about just slowing down to 60, merging back into the steady flow of campers and boats and enjoying the ride. Our exit couldn’t be a whole lot further away anyway. I looked a little up the line. Oh only about five to six more vehicles and there’s another opening. I’ll just get over then. I sped up a little faster. Passing the line faster. Getting to where I could merge over faster. And then I saw the orange blur of a car far too close to my own. I hollered, “Oh fuck. ”
And the rest of the story you have likely read in the course of the last three and a half weeks.
A few short months ago… and so much has changed.
Honestly, 2016 has royally sucked ass. My life this year has been one crushing blow after another. One giant obstacle to climb after another. One completely fucked up situation that I try to be strong through after another.
It’s had some interesting lessons though. Hard lessons, but lessons none the less.
Years ago I took on a full time second shift job when my son was in all day kindergarten. I hugged him goodbye at about 2:30 Sunday afternoon and didn’t see him, awake anyway, until he got out of school at 4pm on Fridays. I worked this way for nearly a year. It destroyed me. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I began hating a job I once truly loved. I lost a connection with my son that year that I have never been able to get back. I held on to that job as long as I could, but finally threw in the towel and quit for a first shift factory job. After that experience I refused to ever put a job before my family again, to the point of almost stupid pride.
Through the last six months I’ve learned that, equally, making your job a priority is also ensuring you are putting your family first. Balance, I imagine. For example, I worked sick. I worked with no way home. I worked with no water at home. I worked while we lived in a shed. I worked while we slept on a floor. I worked… because that is how my family needed me to be there for them.
I learned that no matter how much you may need others, not everyone is going to be there. That sometimes, you really are in it “alone”.
In the last six months I wasn’t at all surprised by those that were there for me. I wasn’t surprised that my mother in law opened her home to us. I wasn’t surprised that my mom and sister were calling my cell phone within minutes of me being pulled out of our destroyed SUV. I wasn’t surprised by the people who commented on social media with their prayers and well wishes.
I just, wasn’t surprised. We needed them, and they were there. I expected that, which is why it was so difficult to swallow that no one was willing to help financially when we so desperately needed it to soften the blow. But, as for being there in the sense that being there usually entails, I wasn’t surprised by those that were there.
What did surprise me though were those that weren’t there. Those that never commented. Never liked. Never called. Never texted. Never reached out. Never even bothered to say a simple, ‘Hey, glad you’re still kicking.’ THAT is what surprised me.
Two individuals in particular deeply effected me with their absence as I trudged through the last six months barely intact. Two people in the world, aside from mothers and sisters and such, that I truly from the bottom of my heart thought would always be there for me, weren’t. Not once. Not in the smallest, most insignificant of ways.
It was literally as though I didn’t even exist to them. As though I was drowning, flailing my arms widely around. screaming for them to save me, and they were too busy chatting up the lifeguard to notice.
Now that was a hard pill to swallow.
Even to this moment it hurts. It’s like the pain of losing someone, except that these people aren’t dead. They’re right there, right on the outside watching the mess I’m traveling through with complete disregard. It makes one question their own self worth. Makes one wonder if they are such a horrible person that someone who was once so close to them doesn’t even care if they’re alive or not. And believe me, I gave these individuals plenty of opportunity to toss me a life line.
I’ve since realized that the reality was that it was I that would have always been there for them and mistakenly expected the same in return. I’ve since realized that death is far from the only way to lose loved ones. I’ve since realized, that I need to focus on those that are there for me.
This last six months have been insane. It’s been a roller-coaster through hell that I know isn’t even done yet.
It’s been hard.
It’s hard being told your husband has a terminal illness. It’s hard to always stay positive. It’s hard to feel like everything is always a struggle. It’s hard to hit rock bottom so hard that you resort to asking for help. It’s hard when everyone sees, and no body helps.
It’s hard to have a husband that has cancer. A husband that you still get mad at sometimes. A husband that you still argue with sometimes. A husband that you still have a normal relationship with when things are so far from normal.
It’s hard dealing with the after effects of that accident. It’s hard being the one solely responsible to shoulder so much. The one who’s income is relied on. Who’s transportation is relied on. It’s hard having your family need you to be this person for them and the effects of an accident taken away your ability to meet their needs.
It’s hard feeling the deep truth of who’s in your circle and who’s not. It’s hard accepting that someone truly doesn’t care. It’s hard losing people who aren’t gone.
It’s hard trying to remain hopeful, to keep pushing on, to not just want to throw in the towel when it’s one thing after another tearing you down.
But, I’ve always been told that if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it….
Time to go get a coffee refill! 😉