Friday, January 13, 2012

Let Us Be Angels

After months of neglecting this blog, I was inspired to post the photograph you see here, which at first confused me. What was the writer trying to convey?

Then came the memories.

I had my first child when I was 20 years old, old enough to fully adore him, old enough to take excellent care of him, old enough to easily leave behind dating and partying and to give up my own wants in favor of his needs. But not old enough to solve all the problems that would come sliding like a killing avalanche through my front door.

He was born in 1984, during economic times not unlike the ones we are living through now. On the face of it, my husband and I should have been all right:  He had a job, we owned the house he had purchased with his first wife, we came from relatively affluent families. But then he lost the job. We couldn’t sell the house because of the upside-down mortgage, and because of our failures in paying even the minimum balance on our credit cards, they accrued stunning interest increases and fees. The balances grew hand-over-fist. The bank threatened foreclosure over and over again.

Creditors then could use the most terrifying bullying tactics — I remember wondering where do they get these horrible people, to do this job, maximum security prisons? As a very young, stay-at-home mother, I became a classic victim to those creditors. Shaking every time the phone rang, hiding behind closed curtains, urging my baby to be quiet until whoever was at the door left. A next-door neighbor virtually busted through my front door one day, walked directly to my kitchen cupboard, and turned to me holding up the single can of beets she found there. “Judy, you have to eat,” she said, and I began to do so — at her house. I remember one day my husband told me there was enough money in the checking account to go grocery shopping, but when my items had been rung up with a long line of shoppers behind me, the store refused my check. Not knowing what else to do, I scooped my baby from the cart and ran to my car, tears stinging my eyes.

We made desperate moves, literal and figurative, eventually landing on a dangerous government jobsite on an Indian Reservation. From there, things growing ever more desperate, I fled across the country to get to my parents in Tennessee. The repo man followed me 1,500 miles and put my car on a trailer to take back to Texas, while I watched from my parents’ door, my baby on my hip. I wondered how I would get a job now.

Within one week, I would refuse to take my sick, uninsured son to the hospital until it was about 12 hours too late, so terrified of the bill that it clouded my judgment. I will never, ever forgive myself for this. I had my first child when I was 20 years old, and I buried my first child when I was 22 years old.

Godspeed to the mother who wrote on the piece of cardboard in the photograph. May you and your baby find angels walking past you.