Sunday, June 20, 2010

Real Survival Mode

In the past, when my husband was alive, baseball was the most important part of our lives. He and I coached our sons on two teams together. When we were out at a game, I'd look around with joy and happiness. My family was with me, my husband and I involved and active parents - our boys athletic and talented. There was always a game, usually a double-header or a tournament on Father's Day. And afterward, we'd stop at an inexpensive restaurant for dinner and the staff would ask the boys how they'd done. Usually, they'd proudly admit that the game had been won. But those days and feelings are in the past.

Today, my oldest was off at 6:30 a.m. for a volleyball tournament. While the youngest and I got ready to go to their baseball game, I realized that the oldest had driven off with all the baseball equipment in the van. There were a few panicked moments while we all clamored to figure out what to do. I would have driven out of my way to another town to get the baseball bag but my son was allowed to leave the volleyball tournament early since there was an excess of players.

So I got to see both the boys play baseball for the first time this year. My youngest is a stronger player and hit an outstanding triple that would have been a home run had there been a fence. He also had a pretty incredible double play while manning third, which got guys out at second and first. And made an amazing catch while in the left outfield. My oldest caught for much of the game and as I watched him jog out into the field could not stop thinking of how good looking and mature he is. Kind of a golden boy I thought as I saw him grin and make small talk with the coaches, players and umps.

I hoped my husband saw the game from above or maybe he was out on the field next to the boys. Maybe he ran with them as they headed for their bases. Maybe he leaped up beside my youngest when he made that great catch in left. I want to believe that he knows what fine young men his sons are despite the hardship they've faced.

We all bickered during the drive to the game. I took my little sedan to help save gas because the van seems to eat through it. I told the boys how tight we are until payday, the 29th for the nursing home check and the first for the pension. I recently had to pay over slightly over a $100.00 for the second payment due for the van's vehicle insurance and along with the end of the year school fees we are now flat broke. My oldest just kept telling me it is all my fault. The youngest chimed in from the back that is both our faults. I should not have allowed the oldest to play volleyball if we can't afford it and the oldest shouldn't pester me to give in. I didn't say anything to the oldest when he accused me of being at fault. What can I say? It is what it is. The bills caught up with me and overwhelmed me this month. The past few months there was too much due, the unexpected car repairs needed, the driver's ed fee owed for the youngest.

I was glad we all went to the game because afterward, the boys were worn out and pleased they had played so well. And I was a little more relaxed. I did my best to focus on the game and to try and not worry about finances. But I don't know how we're going to make it over a week without any money for food and gas. This is the lowest we've ever gone. Always before it has been tight but never this tight and for so long before pay day. I am scared out of my wits. I didn't like bickering with the boys in the car on the way to the game, but when you're facing financial stress as we are, the worry and upset has to come out in some way. I also don't like having to discuss financial matters with the boys but they are involved and I suppose they are old enough to know what is going on. I can't hide the fact that we are struggling as much as we are right now. Even with working, I couldn't make it this month.

I sat on the stands and listened to the inane conversation of the other moms - moms that no longer include me. Not that I care, really. We don't share much in common anymore. I listened to the one motor mouth mom talk about her trip this week to Disney in Florida with her parents and sister. Her sister is treating her, and her 14-year-old daughter to this vacation. She also blabbed about having just gotten a pedicure for her dog. So far this summer, no pedicure for me. And that means times are pretty tough because I usually get a pedicure no matter what for the summer. All married moms and I looked at their average, balding, husbands, some with pot bellies and felt those familiar waves of envy and sorrow at what my life has become. These women haven't experienced even a fraction of the hardship we've faced. And to have to be sitting on the same bleachers with them and listen to their petty concerns is almost too much to bear at times. I'll have to see if I can sit at a distance from them so I don't have to listen to their drivel the next time.

Then, a mom came up and the conversation shifted to the storms we've had the past few days. Some people in the area lost power for a day, as had this mom. She talked about having to clear out her freezer and made the comment, "You just go into survival mode at a time like that." I was incredulous. "Survival mode?" She was describing a relatively minor power outage as having to go into survival mode? She with her strong, gainfully employed husband safely at work bringing in a decent paycheck so she doesn't have to go out to work outside the home. She who has a lovely, historic home to reside in. I was tempted to tell her and the other moms what going into survival mode really is. It is what I will be facing the next week without enough money for gas or food for my sons. Already we are so sick of peanut butter and mac & cheese. I have no idea how I will figure out how to get gas for the week. I already talked to the boys about their needing to get rides from friends. That ladies, is what the real survival mode is for some of us. Those you pretend not to notice sitting next to you in the stands. I figure that $30.00 is probably what it would take to get through the week - enough money for gas and a few food essentials. Just $30.00! Not a great amount when you think about it. But here's a widowed mom who can't even scrape that up.

To survive the next week will be a true testament of my creativity and resilience. That is the real survival mode. Not the example given by this taken care of middle-aged mom, whom I'm sure has over $30.00 in her checking account and/or family and friends to come to her assistance if she needed it. Some of us believe it or not don't have $30.00 to our name or the means in which to get it even to feed our children.

A sad and bittersweet Father's Day as all these days during this period seem to be. As I sat watching the boys I was certainly sad to reflect on how low we have fallen since the death of the boy's Dad and my husband. I would say today is the lowest point in my six and a half years of widowhood. But at the same time, there was happiness and joy as I watched the boys play together.

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