“The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of Summer’s ending, a sad monotonous song. ‘Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.’ A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.” e.b. white – Charlotte’s Web
Fall is always a hard time of year for me.
Having moved from MA to CA, it gets easier as Fall is so much more a pale pause of death and rebirth, compared to the dramatic and drawn out agony that I experienced on the East Coast of the USA.
While I try to look for the beauty in the gnarled burdens of age that leafless trees become, the haunting spectre of death can be distracting, dragging one down to the point where they forget about the rebirth process. I feel overrun by the dead and the dying.
Every aspect of my life is taken over by the process of death and dying, and I just cannot tolerate the 3 months this takes in New England, on average, before it starts to become blanketed in snow.
I become a hunched version of myself.
Waiting for the hope of Spring and rebirth.
Into all of this atmosphere comes the reality of living in a relatively large City vs. being tucked away in the Suburbs. Add in walking back and forth once or twice a week from the YMCA (another way to easily get my necessary exercise), and I then add in the image of actual people, suffering and unwanted in front of me, and it causes my brain to cycle obsessively about Man, and our belief that we are one of a tribe that will take care of each other.
Yeah. Right. True illusion or self-delusion?
I began this post on October 2nd, when the annual slide into Fall began, and it’s taken me almost 17 days to get my thoughts in order. Having an older friend facing homelessness if she doesn’t get her butt in gear is adding to my anxiety.
Knowing that – even if I do everything right in my battle for disability – I could also end up on a park bench somewhere also troubles me. It’s my personal bogeyman, having been homeless as a child due to a parental divorce, and then having lost my home due to a utility company causing our apartment to be blown up. (Unbelievably true drama? Yes, I have a few scars).
One would hope that it would never happen, but the reality is that we as a people appear to have given up on helping each other.
We try to help in the easy ways, the uplifting ways: girl scout cookies, food kitchens, donating clothing. But, we don’t make a dent in the bigger issue – homelessness, mental health challenges, bureaucracy and red tape.
Instead, we blame the person who can’t seem to cope, and who ends up on a bench someplace, much like a bird enduring a rainstorm.
We don’t worry how the bird will survive. We think “That’s just how Nature works. Survival of the fittest.” and we move along on our own trivial paths, secure that being homeless will NEVER HAPPEN TO US.
If the unfortunate series of circumstances comes together, being homeless could be a reality for any of us.
Friends get tired of the drama. Family gets angry at the lack of funds or metal health challenges. Society moves on and leaves the drowning person at the curb to fend for him- or herself as best they might. How can one expect someone who can’t cope with the basics of life to then be patient, fill out reams and reams of paperwork, and “hope” that a bed or a meal will be forthcoming? Like kids, they just don’t have the ability to endure our bureaucratic nightmare that our government believes constitutes “help” for a heartbreaking reality.
I’ve given generously to others in my journey through life, whenever I’ve had it, all while knowing that I’m paying it forward, but I know that I also have no right to expect anything of anyone for helping me out should the need arise.
Often, as I walk by these homeless people in my neighborhood, it sounds the cricket’s lament in the back of my brain, warning me that I’ve got it pretty cushy but am only a few paychecks away from having to work again, despite being sick, or ending up homeless myself. The guy last Friday made me laugh, though. Older, scant teeth, large cardboard sign:
“Wife and kids kidnapped by ninjas. Need money for karate lessons”.
We shared a smile through my driver’s windshield, and I moved on warmed by his hopeful humor, even though I’m at the point where I don’t have a spare cent for everyone anymore, and it hurt my heart not to give him anything beyond a smile.
While I am trying not to hide from the problem, I’m also dealing with an older friend, 69, with 2 dogs and a mental health situation that doesn’t work to aid her in helping herself, and I’m worried on a very local level for her safety and stability. My limited resources are directed at her, as if my energy alone will keep her (and thus me) out of becoming homeless.
Background: This woman made the choice to save money, moving in with a friend when her monthly benefits were reduced from Disability (about $2,400 per month) down to Retirement (about $1,800 per month). How the government could conceive of reducing her disability benefit when she wasn’t miraculously cured overnight is a rant for another post. For today, it’s her reality.
Meanwhile, I want to think that her landlord once felt like me, that this friend’s situation was not that bad and that she could help out while being helped. Fast forward 4 years, though, and this friend of a friend, her landlord, has earned my ire for life because she’s now kicking my friend out. I understand the challenges, but I don’t accept the reality of what’s happened as being “necessary”.
I don’t know what goes on in that house, so I have to think of it much like a divorce. The lyrics of “Closing Time” by Semisonic echo through my head:
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from.
This room won’t be open ’til your brothers or you sisters come.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
My 69-year-old friend has 2 small dogs, a bum leg from a recent car accident that totaled her car, zero breathing room for moving costs, and is living in complete denial of the fact that the sherriff’s will probably be called on the 5th or 6th of November, if she hasn’t come up with an alternate living situation. She’s been given 2 notices to move out from this landlord / friend, and she’s ignored them thinking (god only knows what) but feeling entitled to rely on the once-thriving friendship that she wouldn’t be thrown out. So, the eviction is pending.
Hopefully, our visit tomorrow to the senior center near her home will produce some help from a case worker that I’ve asked to be assigned to help out my friend. I’m doing what I can (since my place doesn’t allow dogs, so she can’t stay with me).
I’m not sure if I’m enabling her to make progress, or aiding her in living in denial and hiding from the problem. But, I don’t want her to become a bag lady, living on the streets.
I have no answers, but our parallel stories while I’m continuing to paddle as hard as a I can while also knowing that my disability benefits are on the line, and it’s coming to a point where I may have to make the choice to try and outlast the “system” in order to see if I can qualify to stop working due to my COPD, is scaring me. She stopped working at 58 or 60-ish due to her leg injury and got disability, but something went horribly wrong and she’s now reached this point. If I screw up my own situation, that could be me.
Did I ever mention how much I detest Fall and this time of year?
************ Photo Credits ************
(No credits listed separately for any artist that copywrites their own work, yet makes them available on the internet for easy re-use).
(1) Jerry Uelsmann Tree House
(2) Paper tree art, taking over a home. No one credited within the article.
(3) Metal Slut Tree