Just recently I drove several hours east of my home to fetch a friend who was being evicted from her place of residence. She’d lived there for 16 years and while she hadn’t accumulated as much stuff as I have (you’d have to really try to do that), she certainly had some belongings. The people who were evicting her told her that she needed to take what she wanted; no guarantees regarding anything she left behind.
Her belongings –everything that would fit in my PT Cruiser and 9 plastic bins another friend had been able to take for her (and drop off on my porch)- were in my garage for about 5 days and she slept on the floor on my featherbed.
It amazed and frightened me to see that one’s possessions –the things that most mattered to a person, collected items, family memories, important papers, etc.- could line one side of a garage. Knowing that we left a bunch of stuff behind added to my worries. This friend is 58.
I have another friend who owns a house but I’m sure earns far less than what she needs to pay her mortgage. She sometimes has to have her cable turned off, or maybe the internet connection, so that she can make ends meet. She often pawns jewelry for the same reason. Her family has means, so I don’t think that she’ll end up on the streets. This friend is a social person and enjoys inexpensive lunches with her friends, an expense that probably puts her closer to the edge that most of us realize. She’s in her late 50s and that she has to pawn her belongings or do without such simple stuff as cable, for crying out loud… it pisses me off.
Of course you all remember my mother, homeless at the age of 71, her boxes being shipped to and fro across the country. She’s still at my aunt & uncle’s house and they’re none too pleased about it. They’d like to have their house back; neither is well and they’d like to live out the rest of their days as a couple, not a couple with a roommate. She’s got an income made up solely of social security and for reasons only she knows, is not willing to do anything for work. Physical restrictions do play a part – with her knees having had surgery and still needing more, of course, she can’t stand for any length of time, for example.
When my mother was staying with us, I got annoyed sometimes because I thought, “Here she is, on
a fixed income, and yet she has to have a really good (read: expensive) bottle of Irish whiskey; she has to have a $50 salon haircut rather than a less expensive one at a budget-friendly shop; she wants to dine out all the time, buy the best cuts of meat,” and on and on. I wanted her to live on a real budget, save her money, get ready to be independent again.
Yet at the same time, I’d sometimes feel bad for even thinking those things. At her age, why CAN’T she enjoy a good bottle of whiskey or a really good haircut?
Naturally, these stories worry me because they give me cause to think ahead to my own older years. (And those late 50’s aren’t THAT far away, folks.)
But when I can stop thinking of myself for a minute, the real and original source of my anxiety splashes through the surface: How can it be that I know three women over the age of 55 who have recently either become homeless or are living so close to the edge that they have to pawn their belongings to keep the water on? What’s going on that someone can reach a more mature age, perhaps a time of life that I think should allow one some simple pleasures (lunching with friends, good haircuts, keeping ALL of one’s belongings), and have one’s security so unstable?
I’m sure there are plenty of men in the same boat, but I know women dealing with this. I think a bit of research is in order.