I live in a small, dark space. It's a basement. There are windows down there but they don't let in much light due to the fact that the basement is under the main house. The windows are butted up right to our ceiling. We have a living area with a TV, my desk and my daughter's desk, a small table where Grace and I eat our dinner. Our kitchen is a makeshift kitchen. It has an electric griddle, toaster over, microwave, refrigerator and small counter space. I have a wire shelf that holds our food. We eat on paper plates because the sink isn't capable of really doing dishes. We have a small bedroom and our bathroom is pretty cramped.
This living space has very few walls to hang pictures and there isn't really any space to set out candles or other decorating type items that most people take for granted as part of their home space. The bathroom has drywall that is covered in Grace's art work because it was never painted, there is no ceiling in the bathroom. The one wall is all 2x4's and the drywall is from the room on the other side. The 'shelf' in the bathroom is due to a concrete ledge from the contractor's design of the house and the way it butts up to the garage area.
This space is where we spend our life as a family. This space is all we can afford to live in. My child has a roof over her head and a space in which to do homework, we have an address so that she can be registered for school. We've been here for awhile and we will probably be here until... well until forever. I do not foresee the mountain of medical bills getting any smaller and I do not see my health getting any better. I won't ever be able to work a second job as I can barely work the one I have now. Each day gets harder to manage as more things go wrong.
I am grateful for this space, although to many people living in a basement, under the stairs would seem somewhat Harry Potteresque. I am not proud that I cannot afford better for my child or of this home I've had to construct for us. We don't decorate or repaint rooms, we don't do home improvements or talk about restoring floors or getting new cabinets. We don't have any of those options available to us. We talk about how to buy groceries this week and what to do about the pile of past due notices on my desk. We try to figure out the best credit card to put Grace's school fees on and buy the gym shoes she needs.
We are the the working poor. We are a family that barely gets by. I look around at people with multiple children, dual cars, an entire home to themselves and I wonder "What did I do so wrong?" I look at my daughter, happily playing in our basement living room, happy that she got new shoes for school (A whopping $35 pair due to some creative coupon clipping on my part) and I wonder how long will it be before she notices how odd our life is? We don't eat at a dinner table every night because we don't have one. We don't even have a kitchen. We have a small table where Grace and I eat together, without Jeff because their isn't room for him at the table. There isn't room in our "home" to even put a table should we all want to eat together.
I don't talk about any of this to Grace. I don't let her know how different we live from other people. I tell her how much I love her. I tell her we might have to look at different stores to get the right shoes because we have to get them on sale. I try to make it fun that we get to really look for things on sale when in reality it's because I don't have the money to do anything else. We grocery shop at no less than 3 stores every week. Why? Because I need to get everything we need on sale and with a coupon if a possible.
Living like this isn't fun, and I'm grateful that we have somewhat of a home. I'm truly lucky that we have enough money to at least every week. I'm extremely disheartened because I cannot get rid of this medical debt that now stretches into the tens of thousands. I'm discouraged because my efforts at fundraising, while have helped in so many ways, still haven't come close to what I need to make our life truly better. I'm truly sad because I will never be able to give my daughter a dinner table and a back yard with a swimming pool because I cannot re-decorate her bedroom for a growing up girl. I am truly sad that I didn't do better in my life. That I am not capable of working two jobs to make our life simpler.
I hope someday, Grace remembers me with love. That she can understand while it was truly difficult for us to live as we did that we loved her with all our hearts and that we kept our family together as best we could. I hope she doesn't hate me for the life I gave her.
BE thankful for the life you have. If you are able to have a home, a family that gathers around the dinner table every night and beds that you tuck your babies into, give thanks. If you have an abundance of food and grass is a little too long, let it grow, be happy that you have a lawn to cut. If you have a little extra to spare, think about donating to a food shelter or homeless organization for someone that is truly down and out.
As Always, Live, Laugh, Love!