Be forewarned: this is a L O N G post… but one I have to get out of my head and heart.
How bad do things have to get before one cracks? You know you’re strong, but how strong can you be before you snap and lose yourself? I appear to be on that journey to find out. Not willingly mind you, but things keep piling on, one bad situation on top of another. And I’m feeling my will to fight just fading away. One step forward, two steps back seems to my predicament.
Have you ever wondered as you drove by someone on the corner, maybe even given some of your spare change, holding a sign similar to those above, “what must have happened to put them in that situation”? Are they a drug addict? An alcoholic? Or were they really just too down on their ‘luck’? I have. Especially lately as things seem to continue in a downward spiral for me. One I thought I would have emerged from by now.
In 2009 I lost my home when my husband got fired from his job as the maintenance person at the complex I was living at. My kids and I were homeless for a week before moving into my uncle’s 2-bedroom singlewide trailer. I looked and looked and looked for work, went to interviews (never my strength), and …nothing. With so many people being out of work, I was continually told there was a ‘better-suited’, ‘more qualified’ candidate or, one that really makes me laugh to this day, “you’re overqualified for this position”. Hello?!? I’m a single mom with no job… I think that makes me qualified just right!
After over a year on TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, aka welfare), I made the decision to go back to school. I had wanted to learn Spanish and Sign Language, I guess now was the time. So in June of 2010, I became a full-time college student at the local community college. OK, things are going to get better. Right?
For a while, they did. I was doing well in class and loving learning again.
The night before my 2nd term finals, I got the news that my mom was sick. Very sick. And in the hospital. I could barely concentrate on my studies, but somehow managed to remember enough to get a passing grade. Mom’s condition didn’t improve and I took a short break just after 3rd term started and went down to California to visit her in the hospital. In the week I was there, her health improved enough the doctors were hopeful and she was able to be moved to a care facility where she was expected to make a full recovery within a couple months. That was at the end of March.
My brother, who lives in South Carolina, decided to surprise mom with a visit for Mother’s Day and I joined him and his wife for a visit with mom. Mom’s condition had not improved though. She actually wasn’t very responsive almost the whole time we were there. On our last day though, hope returned. She seemed to be awake and more responsive. We had a lovely visit before saying our good-byes, a ray of hope to go home on.
A week later, May 15, 2011, I got the call. Mom’s health had worsened. My little sister was alone and scared and didn’t know what to do. The outlook was not good, the doctor had put mom on a breathing machine. Without a thought I packed a bag and sped to the airport for an emergency flight home. I got in town early the next morning (around 1am). After a short rest, my sister and I drove to the hospital to see mom (I cannot describe the feeling of seeing someone you love so much lying there in the midst of all those machines) and talk to her doctors. On the phone the day before her primary doctor had told me he had some hope that she would defeat the infection that was now ravaging her body, but as I stood in front of him asking for his honest opinion, he couldn’t tell me that. The nurse called a specialist (IDR what he was a specialist of) who had the tough job of telling us that, although he thought her life could be prolonged, her organs were shutting down and, in his opinion, she had less than 1% chance of surviving off the machines.
The world halted.
and stood still for a brief moment.
You’ve seen those movies where things in the background are moving at normal speed but perceived as in slow motion? That’s how I stood with my sister for however long it took me to digest this piece of information. As the doctor and nurse stood there waiting. Then I told the doctor thank you for his honesty and we would discuss the options.
Of course, we both knew there were no options. Mom was going to die. It was just a matter of how long to have her hold on.. and how selfish we were going to be. We spent a few minutes with mom and went home to call our brothers. Neither of them could make it out to California to say their goodbyes, so we mourned together on the phone. It took us all of that day to make a decision not to wait any longer. We told our family and friends that Tuesday would be the last day to say their goodbyes to mom and cried ourselves to sleep.
Tuesday we prepared ourselves for the day ahead, went to the hospital and told the nurses we were ready to pull mom off the breathing machine, remembering what the doctor had told us, “it could be minutes, it could be hours.”
Mom was taken off the machines and given morphine to ease whatever pain she was having and not able to communicate to us. We hugged her, we prayed, we cried, we held her hand, we cried, and we hugged each other. We hugged everyone that came to visit and say their good-byes, we cried when they cried. As the day wore on, mom hung on like a trooper; she has always been a fighter, a strong woman. That evening my sister and I sat there in quiet darkness. We did not talk much, we did not want the lights on. We sat next to each other, holding hands and listening to mom’s breathing. We could tell when she started to slip.. our tears came more freely as we stood on either side of her then and held her hands, saying goodbye, we love you, we will miss you, we WILL see you again, we will think of you every day and night.
Mom died at 10:35pm, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The death certificate will tell you she died at 10:40pm but that’s just because it took those 5 minutes for me to break away to notify the nurse, who called the head nurse, who verified time of death. My sister and I were there, we know exactly when she “fell asleep”.
Then we went home and called our brothers.. cried with them and said ‘talk to you again soon’.. and cried ourselves to sleep again.
Overall I was in California just almost a month. Getting all the paperwork done, going through as much of mom’s stuff as possible, and helping my sister and her kids pack. I drove back from California to Oregon with a U-Haul full of belongings and my extended family. My sister and her kids moved in with us.
That’s when I would think things would start looking up. Yes?
Since then I have been a victim, and survivor, of domestic violence. My sister has moved out, been a victim, and survivor, of domestic violence and moved back. We have continued struggling.
She works a job that is paid commission and I provide child care for her kids while she is at work. This also affords me to be home for DJ (my 9yr old with ADHD and stuttering issues). But it doesn’t afford much else. And every little minor emergency becomes a major dilemma.
And this is where I find myself this morning.. the reason for this long, ranting, depressing, rant. My “pity me”, self-depressing, how-can-you-not-feel-sorry-for-me, dialogue.
Amidst past due rent, past due electric, past due internet/cable/phone, past due cell phone, broken down car, breaking down van, dying dryer and all the arrangements and delicate balancing act we’re trying to keep up, our cell phones got shut off this morning.
Not the end of the world, I know. But it was enough to push me to the verge of giving up. I considered the option of sitting on the corner with a sign (I’ve heard one can make upwards of $80/day), but I can’t make the kids suffer the cold and rain with me (after all, DJ has been sick with a fever all weekend that just broke overnight and is in his “24hour fever free recovery period”).
So I juggled things around. I scraped up enough to make a partial payment big enough to get the phones back on with arrangements for more.. and more.. and more.. and then some more..
When will this balancing act end? When will enough really be enough? I don’t know.. times are tough. I, like many others, can choose to give up or choose to buck up and fight the good fight to survive.
So, in the end, I remember one of my FAVE mantras and repeat it over and over in my head, quietly pushing the negative thoughts away…
Tough times don’t last;
Tough people do.
How about you? What tough times have you faced and fought? What minor emergencies are you facing now? And what gets you through? I’d love to know!
LoloB ☺ and ♥ and all that stuff.