You read those sad stories in the news about people who have lost everything they have in life to treat a chronic medical condition. You read about how they had to dispose of all their property before they could get assistance because they were considered too wealthy, until they had nothing. You read about how people try to survive when even those meager funds run out. Then you read about how when all else fails, they are run out of town to become someone else’s problems. And you think, “I sure am glad that isn’t my lot in life.”
Until it happens to you.
My blogging output for the past several months has been spotty at best. That isn’t for a lack of topics to write about, for so much is going on one could do nothing but write all day long and still not keep up with it all. No, it’s because I have become one of those chronic illness sufferers who now faces losing everything.
My doctors — despite spending thousands of my benefit dollars on tests and other services — are no closer to knowing what the cause of my illness is much less what to do about it. I just had a specialist tell me that there was nothing more he could think of to do, and I’m a long way from cured. And this is the best medical care in the world? Count me as a skeptic of that lie! I know from experience that it’s not, or else I wouldn’t be writing this!
All of these medical “experiences” have kept me from working for several weeks now. It just isn’t possible physically for me to do so. I have used up all of my sick and vacation time, I’m waiting for the state to process my disability check, and we have begun to cut deep into the savings. That money will only last another month or so.
I have essentially been the main support for the home, with the rest of the family working at whatever jobs they can get to supplement my efforts. Now, we are relying upon their incomes until I can get back to work, and it isn’t enough.
I spent my life working, never having had the time or the money for college. But I had a couple of lucky breaks along the way that made it possible for me to send my wife and all of my children to college. Any one of them now has more education than I was able to get, and I’m proud that I made it possible.
But then reality hit me — hard. If you care to, you can read about the first couple of weeks here. Since that time, the same set of experiences has continued to happen, with no resolution for cure or relief for the cause of my illness. And there isn’t anyone to pick up the slack.
My wife’s job was saved by stimulus money, but it required cutting back on her hours to do so. She now couldn’t make it on her salary if she lived alone. As for changing jobs for more money, no one responds to her applications, and she’s been looking since before the Great Recession began. It may be her age, it may be her pre-existing medical condition, who knows. One would think that a master’s degree would be worth something besides the eight years of my life I spent toiling away in the dream factory to make it possible.
My eldest son Bookseller has had his hours cut down so low that some weeks don’t cover his commuting costs — and we live fairly close to the shop. Business is so bad that the management is threatening to close the store, ending his employment. He recently discovered the hard way that he is allergic to bee venom, and now has to carry around an Epipen. He has to pay almost $100 for each new one out of his own pocket every three months. Even without this problem, he can’t make it on what he makes either. We were worried that he would never move out. Now we hope that he doesn’t, for we need every dime he brings in.
My younger son Translator was hoping to get into the Cal State system this fall, but that isn’t going to happen now. We can’t pay for it. In addition, he’s just lost his job due to his employer suffering serious injuries in a hit-and-run accident. Replacing this lost job isn’t going to be easy, not when you have engineers and teachers working the drive-up window at Del Taco. But even if this didn’t happen, he was only making enough to cover his textbooks. One of those cost $150 this last quarter. I know — I paid for it when he couldn’t.
My youngest daughter Sensei is in danger of us not being able to meet our portion of her “full” scholarship. This may keep her from realizing her career dreams, and instead send her into the netherworld jungle that is today’s job market. We maybe can no longer guarantee to back her loans in the amounts necessary to cover what the “full” scholarship does not. Her only job is work study, so if she leaves college, her job ends.
But Wait! It Gets WORSE!
I spent years making extra payments to get my house paid off, and have almost made it to Free-and-Clear Titleland. Another good year’s income and it would be completely mine. Now, due to my illness, I’m in danger of losing it as well. At least I just paid the property taxes, so I’ve got six months to come up with the next assessment.
My extended family is facing similar problems as I am, and can’t help themselves much less help to support me. I’m hardly alone in this situation. Millions of other Californians are in similar bad straits. Hell, millions of other AMERICANS are in these dire straits. And what do we all have to fall back on when we used up the last drop of our assets?
Not a damn thing. I am neither a Wall Street bank nor am I a military contractor, both of whom get plush servicing regardless of which party is in the majority. I am not a “valued” ally with large energy reserves and a primitive population to exploit for foreign gain. I am not strategically located to “enjoy” the “patronage” of the US military through basing vital assets in a sensitive theater on my land. I have no political connections to push an earmark through the Congress to put me on the corporate welfare roll like so many companies have done throughout the years. But damn! Don’t you be drivin’ no Cadillac and need some food stamps!
We mere mortals are going to go through the only steps remaining available to us. In our house, this means that the food budget has already been cut in half, and will get cut again. Meat will become a memory. The family cell phones will have to go, as will the satellite TV and the Internet, which means that I will have to go off-line, maybe for good. [Stop cheering, Dave! It could happen to you! One good Texas gully washer, and ...] We may even have to shut down our utilities before too much longer. It’s a good thing we live in a relatively temperate climate.
That list really is all we have to cut. There is no pension fund, no 401k, no vacation home, no annuities, no inheritances, no vacation travel money. All it means is that we will have enough to have a chance — assuming that no one else becomes unemployed — to keep the house and still eat something. More rice and beans, anyone? I bought two new 100 lb bags at the Costco thanks to my married daughter who is a member. Yeah, I know we had this yesterday. In case you forgot, we also had it last week, and last month. And we will have it next week and next month. In fact, your next birthday “cake” will be made of beans and rice! So if you don’t want it, I do!
These changes are not a pleasant prospect to look forward to. We had the middle-class lifestyle and then some. We are now about to hit the bottom hard with nothing but memories and shattered hopes to show for it. If I lose my job, we lose our medical care, as my wife’s available coverage is already too expensive for her to pick up. In fact, it’s about to go up 39%, making it even less likely that we could afford it! Oh, well. I doubt going without food so as to have health care is going to work out well in the end, especially if we are all living out of our cars.
Son Bookseller is already involved with poverty-level health care, because his employer cut off his benefits in 2008 and he also has chronic health issues. He doesn’t make enough to buy coverage but makes too much for state aid. The youngest ones will have to avoid getting seriously sick, for there really is nothing left in the cupboard, Mother Hubbard. We are as tapped out as those West Texas dry holes that Dubya used to pump the Saudis for a bailout. So if you get sick, be sure to die quick and reduce the surplus impoverished population.
Considering how things are not expected to improve for individuals any time soon, some of you reading this will be joining me in the near future. My advice to you, even if you think you aren’t just a paycheck away from losing it all, is to get the jump on disaster by working out what you really need as well as how you will pay for it. You need to work out how and where you will live and how and where you will eat. Get all the numbers for the state and federal assistance offices in your area, and print them out before your ink cartridge runs dry like mine has. Because the better prepared you are for the worst possible case, the easier it will be for you to adjust to the changes.
And one more thing: the only group that deserves your hatred is the group that took all the money and their political lapdogs who gave it to them. Everyone else has spent years dwelling where you are just moving in. They are the only friends you are going to have. Learn to play nice, because you have to sleep sometime. And you need to know who luvs ya baby, ’cause that cold cruel world sure doesn’t.