Sunday, April 28, 2013

Independence - Fading....

I have always been a pretty independent type of person. Well, I always thought of myself in that vein. However, no one could possibly beat my Mom for being independent I think -although perhaps that depends too on how one views it too.

I worked hard over the years. For many, many years I maintained two jobs almost all the time. And if I didn't have the second job, I was working at least 15-20 hours of overtime every week! I did that for a long time back in the days when I was living in Maryland, just outside the D.C. line and working in the district.

But I never had what one would call a really "good" job though -not one that, by itself, as my only form of income, paid all that well. However, with overtime work and/or a second job, I managed to support myself, my older daughter and my Mom too. We didn't have a fancy-schmancy apartment but did live in a very nice "garden" apartment, air-conditioned, balcony, dishwasher -the things that were nice accoutrements to have back in those days.

I even managed to buy a new car when my daughter was about 8 months old and that was a dream I'd had since I was a little kid -to have my own new car some day! Well, it too wasn't a big fancy deal either -just a pretty much stripped down Chevy Nova -but hey, I bought it new and I still remember the sticker price on it -new -too - $2,619! That included white wall tires, a heater and AM radio!

When I worked down in D.C., I really never had any difficulty in locating employment, at least not part time work -as I was pretty content to stay with the full time job I had as long as business was running pretty good and there was overtime work almost always available.

I didn't have money to go buy anything I pleased but I made enough to keep a decent roof over our heads, put food on the table, clothes on our backs and even once in a while, do things of a frivolous nature too -like a trip to the shore once in a while. Vacations, where one would go someplace ultra special weren't part of my lifestyle as my vacations each year were generally spent back here in this house for our family reunions every year.

It was, in essence, really a very simple life but I enjoyed it because I loved the company -and especially the people -where I worked and as a general rule, I looked forward to going to work every day mainly because the people I worked for and with made it a very interesting and fun atmosphere.

Then, my ex-husband and I decided that the D.C. lifestyle was not our cup of tea -mainly because the costs of housing was beginning to escalate and finding a place to buy was getting very difficult to do if you were looking for something relatively affordable. So we thought things over and decided we wanted to go live someplace in a quieter atmosphere. We considered moving to one of three places -either go whole hog and move to Arizona (Phoenix area -which I'm sure would have probably led to a rerun of the issues we didn't like about D.C), or moving to his home town in Illinois or else, moving to my hometown up here in Pennsylvania.

Okay -since you know I live in PA, in the house my grandparents built, now -without making rocket science out of any of this story, you know which place won out, don't you?

We moved here in August of 1972, rented a small apartment in a nearby town (Philipsburg) and lived there for about 6 months before we found a house for rent about 4 miles from my family home and we moved there. Lived in that house for about 19 months until the house we built was completed enough that we could move in there. That house, one of those package type units where they supply all the materials and you supply the labor -or, if necessary, contract some jobs out -was a small 3 bedroom ranch -nice enough but nothing outstanding. Just a nice little house.

We lived in that from 1974 until 1979 when a series of events in my life caused some major life changes. My husband and I split up; about 2 months after that, my Mom died and 2 weeks after her passing, the minister at the church I attended then (still do) transferred to another parish in southeastern PA. He was pretty much my shoulder to lean on -someone I could talk to and get reasonable good counsel from him and with him gone, along with my Mom -all I had left then were 3 children under the age of 12 (ages 12, 6 and 3), no full time job and a boatload of depression.

By February of 1980, I had found a full time job and had also moved from the house my ex and I built over to my family homestead. I worked full time as a casher or waitress at the nearby truckstop plus I had a fairly large and relatively productive route too as an Avonlady, going door to door, selling those products. That income plus child support and I made ends meet -barely -but at least we were never at risk of being homeless and I always managed to have food on the table for the kids and myself as well as generally keeping the cupboards pretty well stocked too. (I think with my Mom having lived through the Great Depression and always telling about how hard those times were, how the family scrimped and saved to have money for the bare necessities that it hammered home to me the idea of having well stocked cupboards at the very least!)

But I wanted more than work as a waitress and the shift work I had to take just to have a job -first, midnight shift, then the afternoon evening shift. I wanted something that didn't beat my body up -running and running and running -to keep up with the tables and customers, ya know -so I started applying for work in the State College area -location of Penn State University's main campus and that's the largest employer, pretty much, in the central Pennsylvania region. I applied for virtually every office type job I saw advertised or heard about or knew about and my experiences then should have been a warning sign to me when, after several years of applying for other than food service work, I decided well, I'll go to college and that will help my odds of finding a better job.

Little did I know that was actually, for me, the beginning of the end.

I worked full time at first during my 1st year at Penn State, then dropped down to a part-time job for the last 3 years of school. That, plus it being a 1 hour commute each way to school, trying to oversee clothing, food and a roof over our heads too for myself and my kids -two still at home in high school -was a bit of a rough process but I survived it and even made the Dean's List on three different occasions too.

After graduation, I lucked out and got hired by a non-profit agency in Baltimore where I worked Monday thru Friday, came back home to Pa Friday night and worked at the part time job I'd had durig my last 3 years in college -a 220 mile drive one-way on Friday and the same drive again back to Baltimore late Monday night and I kept that routine going for a year until things began to go south back on the home front where my two daughters, were sharing the family house and were taking care of the expenses on the place here while I worked in Baltimore. My son by that time was in the Army but my girls were both through school and working full time but also, apparently not seeing eye to eye with each other about the shared responsibilities around the house. So, back to PA I came!

And after that, I had one horrible time trying to find a full time job! I had several part time jobs -all the while, thankfully, still holding on to the one job I'd had through college years and after five long years, I finally got hired in a full time position.

The only problem with that was that it was back at the place I had been working as a shift manager when I decided to go to college. Yep! Same place, same position and same "career: field too -food services -which was the one type of employment I had wanted desperately to escape!

And that lasted for about 2 1/2 years when I finally could not take any more of the issues that the general manager was laying out as being my fault, my problem -till the last straw when he gave me a week off without pay for the way I had handled a situation one busy weekend and the cause of the situation I had been rammed into was caused directly by the manager and so, I quit and got hired at the local truckstop to home as a waitress, three nites a week on the graveyard shift. I ended up not working there as a waitress but as shift manager -again -and yes, another truck stop -and hated every bloody minute of the work at that place! Till by December of that year I was laid off due to the normal slowdown of business that hits trucking and food services both in January through February or March. And that began the rest of my downslide in employability.

A year later I was diagnosed with cancer, ended up on disability, four surgeries in a 7-year period, plus two herniated discs as well  (the 4th surgery was also for cancer but for a totally different type of cancer than the first was). I'm relatively speaking, fine now except some minor issues with arthritis in my knees and hip and some repercussions from time to time from the abdominal surgeries that are a pain in the dupa to deal with but, well -that's life!

So now, I find myself in a completely different predicament. My daughter and her two children who have been living here with me for the past 10 years -this has been the only home the two grandkids have ever know -are going to be moving out some time this summer, going to move down around the Harrisburg area, which is where my daughter's boyfriend lives and that leaves me here, alone in this house and not enough income to be self-supporting!

With a mortgage on the house -due to repairs and additional remodeling done after the place caught fire back in 1991 -plus utility bills that have increased GREATLY over the years -a whole lot faster than social security will ever increase -and I find myself no longer able to pay my own way!

There have been all kinds of ideas tossed around about how to allow me to stay in my own home well mine and the banks, but anyway -one of which was that my son could rent his house out and he and his girlfriend and her three boys could move in here with me. Sounds relatively viable bu something that ultimately scared the hell out of my son as his main worry was his sister would move out, then, find she either didn't like it in the Harrisburg area or couldn't manage there and decide to move back home and well, where would that put him and his family -plus the additional worries of finding a tenant who wouldn't wreck his house and who would also be timely in rent payment too!

As it currently stands, I am now going to look into the prospect of refinancing the homestead by way of a reverse mortgage.

And if you don't know what that is, I'm not going to explain it completely here mainly because I still don't know what all the little hoops and such are that one has to jump through in order to qualify for said mortgage. All I can say is that the bank or loan company will give you anywhere from 45% to 75% of the value of your home, you then pay off your mortgage, maintain the insurance and tax fees on the place but you then live there as long as you want/can with no mortgage payment overhead. And, when you die, the house is then sold -either to a family member who wants it then or an outside party! No, not exactly that simplistic, but that's the gist of it at any rate.

And at our family meeting today, my son was the only one who addressed the issue that is equally disturbing for me as the financial issues are and that's how am I going to be able to cope with the loss of my grandkids -without having them here with me, 24/7, ya know?

And I honestly don't know how I'll cope with their absence.

Sure there will be loads of time available to me then to do whatever I want to do -embroidery, knitting, sewing, reading, just watching tv -but he's wanting me to to try to become more of a "social butterfly" (in an old timer's way) once again. Yes, I have friends here -life long friends -but they all have family that they do things with -like shopping for one thing or going to various small events, etc. and they have someone to go with. I'm like a bump on a stump with no family to have join me to go to a movie or other little entertainment deals now and again. I gave up frequently the local pubs here about 10 years ago and have no desire to have that as my only form of outside entertainment again.

I used to be a pretty outgoing individual but over the past so many years of working at crap jobs with long, long hours that I have lost the ability to communicate well in that respect today. My phone rarely rings with someone on the other end just calling to tell me the latest news or a joke or some such other thing.

I have, in essence, become rather reclusive. No, not to the point of being agoraphobic -nothing quite that drastic -but more than a bit paranoid at times at how to regain friendships or make new ones today.

A few people think I should just sell the house and move to a senior citizen complex but that would mean leaving this little village and I've spent close to 60 years living here and to be honest, I like the scenery here fine and dandy!

I suppose to many none of this makes any sense -about wanting to stay in a big old house simply because, in my find, I still "feel" the presence in little ways here of my grandparents, my aunts/uncles long departed, my Mom, cousins and lots of old friendships that came and went through this place too!

I know one thing for sure, I don't want to be forced out and into a cracker box efficiency-type apartment and be alone there.

So, for now, my little dog Sammy and I will be here all by ourselves -just us and the tv and whatever crafting crap I can keep my mind focused on for any length of time.

I wish I could find a job -20-25 hours a week at most -which would allow me enough to manage to get by at least then. But seems like my employability track record is still following me around as I did have an interview back in November for a reasonably well-paying job (a major shock that was) and it even involved using my college major too. However, the one who ended up being hired -a 26-year-old single parent who has never even had any coursework in counseling type classes, much less a degree. (Her only coursework to date -accounting and an English class! And this for a job that requires a person be able to empathize with clients in distress and knows how to work with them, etc. So, now you go figure that type of employment theories out there because I sure can't!

I'm trying very hard, believe me, to maintain my sanity -which my kids will tell you is already shaky at best too -and I'd just like to go out eventually from the same house that was my first home many years ago too. I'd like to be able to do it with a bit of independence as well but that -well it remains to be seen I guess how well that aspect will play out over the next several months or hopefully years!


Maggie May said...

Oh Jeni. The very first thing I though of was how would you cope without your grand kids. You have practically brought them up. I really do feel for you.
It is amazing how our children can just use us when it suits them & then seem to toss us to one side when it pleases.
You have been a hard working person all your life and you are going to miss the family.

If my husband dies before me, I will be left in a large rambling house too. I would not have enough coming in to pay the bills. I was thinking I might have to have a lodger. (A big risk I know.)
Have you thought of that?
I think it might be best to do nothing for a while until you are really sure what is the best thing if you are able to do this.

Maybe it might be best to eventually make a fresh start in a senior citizen complex somewhere else where you would have help available if you needed it.
I'm sure you would make some friends & join a cooking and sewing group & find a suitable church.
Hope you get on OK.
Maggie x

Nuts in May

terri said...

I can completely understand you wanting to stay where you are, in a house that is filled with a family spirit, in a town that holds good memories for you.

It hardly seems fair that you put in all the hard work and effort to get an education to improve your job situation, only to have various other things work against you.

I don't know what the answers are. I wish I lived closer. Because of Mark's work schedule - rotating three different shifts - I often feel the same way as you. I don't want to socialize with other couples when I'm the odd single person. My kids are pretty well grown up while many of my friends and my sister still have young ones at home. I would hang out with you, Jeni if I lived closer!

Is there a hospital or a day care center where you might spend some time volunteering? Of course things like that can't replace having your grandchildren at home with you, but it might fill the gap a little bit.

Unknown said...

Hi Jeni -

Sorry not to have been around for a while ... I've been fairly busy and keeping up with my blog has filled my time. When Muri and I bought our little active seniors house here in Arizona, the plan was to live here half time. There are lots of activities and people are really friendly and the grandkids are close. But there's always drama in my daughter's marriage that makes it uncomfortable to be here for long stretches of time. So we still live in our bigger CA house. We both know at some point we'll need to downsize but we love the house. Hard decision. Just for reference, when my Dad finally moved to a senior community, it started the best years of his senior life ... lots of activities and friends.

As you've often commented on Older Eyes, growing older sometimes stinks. I hope you can find a solution that works for you and your family. It was very interesting to hear your story, by the way.